After Florida shooting, RCAS explains safety training

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RAPID CITY, S.D. -

The recent Florida high school shooting has raised questions on whether Rapid City Area Schools are prepared for the worst. In the wake of the deadliest school shooting of 2018, Rapid City police and school administrators are highlighting the school district’s emergency plans.

“It’s awful,” said RCAS Community Relations Manager Katy Urban. “Everyone is impacted. It certainly makes us reevaluate our safety protocols. It makes us wonder if our schools are safe.”

Last October, RCAS adopted the ALICE protocol, which stands for: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. With ALICE, staff use information from their surroundings to make decisions that could save lives. The protocol can give teachers and administrators the ability to determine how to deal with an active shooter situation, like if they should run, hide, or fight. 

According to RCPD Juvenile Operations Lt. Brian Blenner, RCAS staff is routinely trained on new protocols.

“It’s not just a one-time deal,” said Blenner. “We’ll do different drills each semester and every year. Every staff member has to go back on and become certified again. It’s an ongoing process.”

As far as Rapid City police could tell, the Florida high school only had lockdown procedures in place and nothing else. Blenner said that this can lead to confusion and miscommunication.

“That’s what’s there; that’s what was available,” said Blenner. “We need to learn from that and decide, okay, what could we do differently? What can they do differently to insure survivability of our staff and students?”

Possibly the most important part of being prepared is good communication within the community. Both RCAS administrators and law enforcement agree: if you see something, say something.

That's how law enforcement was alerted to "suspicious messaging" from a student on social media that lead to a safety scare in Box Elder Thursday.

According to Pennington County School Resource Deputies Supervisor Sgt. Chris Hislip, reporting suspicious activity on social media is imperative to keeping the community safe.

“A very large majority of our threats are made on social media,” said Hislip. “It’s very important to take those seriously and not try to have the parent try to determine the credibility of the threat, but give it to the professionals. Give it to us who are used to dealing with those things.”

Though it’s nearly impossible to be fully prepared for an active shooter situation, Urban also said that school and law enforcement officials are taking steps to ensure safety and peace of mind.

“You don’t always know what’s going to happen and we can’t prepare for every tragedy," Urban said. "But we can do our best to listen to the advice of others, learn from these different tragedies, and make protocols and procedures accordingly."

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