ORLANDO, Fla. – There's no doubt that school security is a top concern for students, parents, teachers and administrators.
At Central Florida schools, drills take place on a regular basis to prepare the campus community in case there ever is an active threat, whether that be a shooter on campus or something less serious.
News 6 contacted representatives from all of the school districts in Central Florida to find out what types of drills they practice. We asked that their answers focus on threat-related drills rather than weather-related drills.
Below is a breakdown of their responses:
For security reasons, Brevard County officials said they could not discuss specific details of their drill procedures. A spokesperson did say that Brevard Schools did away with color coded drills in an effort to alleviate confusion.
Officials from Flagler County did not provide an answer to News 6's request at the time of publication. This article will be updated when and if an answer is received.
Active shooter drills, lockdown and bomb threat drills are all practiced in Lake County schools. Procedures for active shooter drills are developed using guidance from the FEMA IS-907 course, a free training offered online. Methods include barricading in place and securing the door, evacuating if it is safe to do so or using force as a last resort.
Students shelter in place behind locked doors during lockdown drills while during bomb threat drills, students may be asked to evacuate. An announcement is made over a loud speaker when the drill begins. Students in teachers know general information about the drill ahead of time, such as the day of the week, but they do not know the exact time that it will take place.
Active shooter and lockdown drills are held once per semester.
Drills procedures for Marion County schools are outlined in the Code of Student Conduct, which is distributed to students and parents each academic year. If there is law enforcement in the area of the school but unrelated to campus, a code yellow will be put in place. During those drills, school and classroom doors will be locked but instruction will continue. A code red means there's a dangerous situation on or near campus, which officials said is rare. The last time a Marion County school was placed on a code red was when a former student allegedly hid a gun in a guitar case and shot a student in the ankle at Forest City High School in April. During a code red drill, all school doors are locked and everyone is advised to get on the floor away from any doors or windows. Teaching does not take place during a code red drill.
The A.L.I.C.E. Protocol, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate, is used in the event of an active shooter. Those drills focus on creating distance from the shooting situation.
Typically, the campus community knows when a code red or yellow drill will take place and they always know when an active shooter drill is scheduled.
Orange County schools use the standard response protocol that uses plain language to announce four different types of scenarios: a lockdown, a lockout, an evacuation or a call to seek shelter. During a lockdown, teachers lock the door, turn out the lights, take attendance and instruct the class to remain quiet. Students are told to keep the door shut, stay out of sight from windows or doors and stay silent. Lockouts mean that the students should return inside and teachers should lock doors but keep teaching as usual.
During an evacuation, teachers lead students to an evacuation location. Students are told to bring their phones but leave any other belongings behind. Shelter procedures depend on the type of situation. Students evacuate to a shelter area in case of a tornado, seal the room if there's a hazmat situation, drop and cover for an earthquake or seek high ground in the event of a tsunami.
Lockouts, which would be used if there were law enforcement in the area, for example, calls for students and staff to stay inside buildings.
Nine active assailant drills are held during the school year and students do not know in advance that these drills will take place.
Active assailant drills are held twice during the first 30 days of the academic year and then monthly after that. Students and teachers are not told in advance when a drill will take place. For security reasons, Osceola County officials could not provide specific details on drill procedures.
A Polk County Public Schools spokesman said that each school is required to conduct 10 drills per academic year. Two active shooter/assailant drills are held within the first 30 days of a new school year and then subsequently once each month after that. Three heightened security drills are also held during the course of the academic year as well as lockdown drills.
Prior notice is not given, instead an announcement is made over the intercom system when the drill begins. Drills can take between one and 10 minutes, depending on the size of the campus, the amount of administrators conducting the evaluation and how long it takes to correct any deficiencies.
Officials could not provide detailed information about any kinds of codes used during drills for security reasons.
Officials in Seminole County are currently in the process of revising drill procedures after an incident at Lake Brantley High School in December. During an unannounced code red drill, a message was not sent to parents letting them know it was only a drill until an hour later. By that time, panicked students who thought there was actually an active shooter on campus had texted their loved ones. Then when an announcement was later made announcing the results of the drills, students in the cafeteria during lunch only heard "code red" and once again panicked.
Unannounced code red drills will still take place in Seminole County, but an announcement will be made at the beginning of the drill notifying the campus community that there is no actual threat, officials said in December.
Seminole County Public Schools communications officer Michael Lawrence said that code red drills are conducted to practice for a situation in which there is an imminent threat on campus. In that scenario, doors will be locked and students are told to remain in classrooms with the lights out, remain silent and keep away from doors and windows. Code red drills are held multiple times per year in Seminole County.
There is a code yellow threat-level scenario in which the school would be locked down, but no drills are held to practice that protocol.
Before each academic year begins, administrators, the school safety specialist Darren Norris, as well as law enforcement and fire department representatives, meet to discuss best practices and any changes that need to made to county's crisis manual. Currently, Norris said active threat drills take place once a month at all Sumter County schools. Teachers and students do not know ahead of time that a drill will take place and each time there is a drill, the time and day of the week is varied, which means that drills could be held during the lunch hour, between classes or at the beginning of the school day.
Sumter County uses plain language rather than codes in their drills. Norris said that an active threat drills is used to practice for any kind of active threat on campus, including a shooter, someone with a bomb or even a chemical spill. Students are taught the run, hide, fight method so when there is a drill, they know to do whichever one of those actions makes the most sense. After the drill, students and teachers openly discuss what they could do better during the next drill.
Officials in Volusia County model drills based on guidelines laid out by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability. Florida statute 1006.07 calls for schools to conduct drills for active shooter and hostage situations at least as often as other drills are conducted. The district school safety specialist and other appropriate administrators and law enforcement officials are required to take part in the drills. Tests must be conducted to make sure emergency communication systems are functional.
Active shooter drills are announced ahead of time, but other drills are not. Officials could not provide specifics about procedures during each type of drill.