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McHenry chief to update residents on school safety

Published: Friday, Sept. 6, 2013 6:16 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Sept. 6, 2013 11:51 p.m. CDT

McHENRY – Nine months ago, the McHenry police chief held a public meeting about school safety.

The meeting, one of the monthly Coffee with the Chief gatherings, was spurred by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that resulted in the deaths of 20 students and six staff members.

On Monday, at the September Coffee with the Chief, Police Chief John Jones will revisit the issue.

A safety committee made up of representatives from the city, the police department, McHenry Township Fire Protection District, District 15, District 156 and the private schools in McHenry has been meeting quarterly since the December shooting, and it's led to a better partnership between emergency responders and the schools, Jones said.

The McHenry Police Department has been conducting active-shooter drills and rapid-response training for at least 10 years, but the drills since have been expanded to include students and staff playing victims during the simulation, a mock triage center, and an open discussion on the school's response plan.

Jones would like to see these drills eventually include mock reunification centers and ambulance transports.

Since December, the number of lockdown drills has been doubled to between three and five a year.

The department has provided safety training to custodial staff to raise awareness about things such as leaving doors open and noticing red flags, Jones said.

Videos have been produced to teach schools' staff about the department's rapid-response training and how a lockdown should be handled. The videos are followed by a question-and-answer session with officers.

The plan is to get to all the schools by mid-October, Jones said.

The department also has increased its foot patrols through the schools and conducts checks where plain-clothed officers walk the perimeters of the schools, making sure the doors are locked and the front office is checking IDs.

An upgraded computer system in the squad cars opens up the possibility that officers eventually might be able to access the schools' security cameras and pull up blueprints of the schools.

If you go

The September Coffee with the Chief will cover school safety. The meeting will from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9, in a classroom inside McHenry City Hall, 333 S. Green St.

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