Back to School: Talking to your student about safety

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Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 9:03 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A new Georgia Law requires intruder alert drills in all public schools.

“Know that we are doing the best we can to prepare for an event that we hope we never have to respond to,” Sheriff John Miles with Candler County explained.

Georgia House Bill 147 requires, “school safety plans to be submitted to the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency; to require intruder alert drills in all public schools in this state.”

“We’re really in the compliance part of this. The schools have until October 1 to submit the fact that they completed their intruder alert drills. We’re providing advice and guidance needed but it will be a local decision,” Linda Criblez said.

Criblez is the deputy director of homeland security for GEMA. She says teaching children what they should do in these situations can be empowering.

“There is enough awareness about threats to schools that kids think about this. They come up with their own plans for what will I do if something terrible happens at my school. You don’t want your 12-year-old to be coming up with their own plan, you want them to be using a plan that their police department, principal and emergency manager think is the right thing to do. Having them be a part of that and knowing what to do, really empowers the students and provides them some security,” Criblez said.

“We’ve included all of our deputies and we have also included some EMS personnel that may respond to an incident out here. We familiarize the deputies with the layout of the building first. Then we go into more tactical, how to move quickly to an active shooter incident and how to clear rooms, search for a suspect and once the suspect is eliminated then tend to the victims,” Sheriff Miles explained.

At times the conversation with a younger child about why these drills are needed can be difficult for some families.

“We want to model calm confidence. Children pick up on our emotions, how we come across and if we come across as very afraid or fearful, they are going to sense that regardless of what our message is,” Dr. Kristi Hofstadter-Duke said.

Dr. Kristi Hofstadter-Duke, has been a pediatric psychologist for 12 years.

The training is meant to be a continuous learning process for the deputies.

“We drill into their heads, the training, be prepared, have the tools that you will need for this incident, have the keys that you will need to enter rooms inside the building to move to the threat as quickly as possible,” Sheriff Miles said.

Sheriff John Miles has been in law enforcement going on 30 years. He says throughout his career there has been a growing need for this kind of training.

“We learned from these early incidents like in Columbine – how to better respond to active shooter threats. It’s a reminder every time you do one of these trainings, why you need to do the training.”

For more information on the requirements for the these safety drills, click here.