Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Safety Response to Friday's Airport Shooting

After Friday's tragic shooting at the Fort Lauderdale / Hollywood International Airport, I want to thank our faculty and staff for their quick and excellent response. Thankfully, the two Bethany dads who work at the airport are safe, as are the two families who had flights scheduled that day. Please pray for the families of those who have unexpectedly lost their loved ones and for those who have been scarred (physically or emotionally) by this event.

I would like to explain (in part) how Bethany addresses these sorts of situations, so you may have peace of mind that the safety of your children is our highest priority. 

During the past few years, Bethany has invited three (3) different law enforcement agencies to survey our campus and examine our security procedures. We asked them to make suggestions on how we can best ensure the safety of our students on campus. We have taken their advice without exception.

As a result, we installed a new surveillance system that blankets the common areas of our campus. All of our windows and doors are now impact resistant. Unless a law enforcement official is on premises, all entry points are locked, monitored with cameras, and controlled remotely. We have installed new or upgraded locks on all of our classroom doors. We have assigned receptionists to each public entry point. We also took their advice on simple things like increasing the height of our bushes and fences to reduce our students' exposure to people in the neighborhood. In addition, we schedule routine lockdown drills in anticipation of events like this one. In fact, we had a full lockdown drill on Thursday -- the day before the shooting.

Within minutes of receiving reports of the shooting at the airport, our school implemented a partial lockdown, which is called if we perceive the possibility of a threat to student safety. During a partial lockdown, our administrative team will immediately contact the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, and we will ask for a precautionary police presence on campus. On Friday afternoon, Detective Lee Hancock (a very familiar face to our students) was on our campus for both dismissal and aftercare. The school's exterior and interior doors are locked; no guests are permitted inside the building without being cleared by administrative personnel; our students are not permitted to go outside once the lockdown is called; and a member of our security team will monitor the electronic gate into the South Lot. If the partial lockdown is still in effect at the time of dismissal (as was the case on Friday), our students will be dismissed from inside the school building with an adult escort, unless law enforcement advises otherwise.

Even though Friday's tragedy was four miles south of our campus, we will always err on the side of student safety.

In the event we perceive a threat is imminent, we will immediately issue the call for a "FULL lockdown" over our paging system. If a "full lockdown" is implemented, a member of our staff will have already called 9-1-1. All doors are immediately locked and secured (both inside and outside of the school); all classroom lights are turned off; blinds are drawn; interior windows are covered; and our students are required to sit in complete silence while positioned in the safest possible location inside each classroom. Two years ago, our faculty and staff members underwent basic tactical training on how teachers can best protect their students and confront (and even disarm) an intruder in the event of a classroom breach. In this circumstance, our designated administrative team members will immediately begin surveying various sectors of the school to ensure that we can account for every child, and ensure all lockdown procedures are being followed. Once a full lockdown is implemented, and all of our students are secured indoors, the ONLY people who will be permitted to enter our buildings will be law enforcement officers. In order to prevent any possibility of a security breach, please know that we will NOT allow entrance to parents, nor will we dismiss any student until law enforcement officials have cleared our campus and advised us that it is safe to do so.

Thankfully, Bethany has never experienced a threatening security breach on our campus, and I pray that we will never face anything more serious than these sorts of precautionary measures. In light of Friday's tragedy, we want you to rest assured that your children's safety is our #1 priority.

If you have any questions about our security procedures, please feel free to contact me.

In Christ,
Sam Kastensmidt
Bethany Christian School