Last Wednesday, on Jan. 22, the campus at Norwood Public School went into a lockdown mode after a fire alarm was triggered at roughly 3:45 p.m., just before the final bell rang. Then, the school practiced the safety procedures they’ve been following for the last year and a half.
Students were kept in classrooms for approximately 30 minutes, with the lights off and doors locked, with no one permitted to leave any area.
At the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, school administration with the Norwood District Fire Marshal adopted a plan that involves locking the school down in the event that the fire alarms are sounded. That plan is based off of school shooting incidents that have taken place nationwide.
“Due to the world we live in and recent events, the lockdown procedure is much safer for children and teachers,” Norwood Fire Marshal John Bockrath said. “There have been several instances all across the country where offenders have acted in pairs to harm children.”
According to Bockrath, some incidents have involved one offender pulling a fire alarm, while another waits for people to exit the premises so they can begin shooting students.
Bockrath also said that in other incidents, a fire alarm has been pulled so that an estranged parent, who might even have a restraining order, could possibly abduct a child from a school during the bustle of a fire alarm exit.
He said advantages to locking the school down in this way also include protecting students from unknown persons who might show up on campus. He said if the school suspects a threat by an individual, officials can also pull a fire alarm to tell students and teachers to lockdown and stay safe.
Some parents are wondering what happens in the event of a real fire. Will students be in danger? Bockrath says the answer is “no.”
He said the school is constructed of noncombustible materials, with one-hour fire-rated doors. That means students could be in a classroom for up to one hour as the threat is assessed.
On the other hand, lockdowns involving a potential shooter do not take as long to handle.
Still, school administration tells students and teachers to evacuate if they smell smoke or see flames.
Last week, fire officials were on the scene at Norwood Public Schools to determine possibility of a fire, or a potential shooter, since the fire was not a scheduled drill. After a thorough assessment, no fire or perpetrator was discovered.
Still, during the walk-through process to assess the threat of a perpetrator or fire, students were held until officials could determine they were safe.
At this time, officials are still investigating last week’s incident.
This year, the school adopted various forms of messaging to communicate information about the incident. Parents and staff received emails, text messages and phone calls with voicemails to let them know that the incident occurred and was handled.