Thursday, November 08, 2007

Florida Schools Lockdown: Caution Over Convenience

On November 7, 2007, Broward County school officials, in collaboration with the Broward County Sheriff's Office, ordered all of the county's public and private schools into lockdown. This decision, which resulted in the lockdown of over 300 schools in Broward and surrounding counties, must be applauded as officials acted with an abundance of caution and made the safety of students and staff their highest priority. Schools were in lockdown for approximately three hours.

The Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities document, published by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, stresses that we must make decisions quickly in responding to a crisis:

  • Expect to be surprised
  • Assess the situation and choose the appropriate response
  • Respond within seconds
  • Notify appropriate emergency responders and the school crisis response team
  • Evacuate or lock down the school as appropriate

The leaders that made the decisions to lockdown their schools are to be commended. Though some of the schools which were in lock down were many miles away from the incident, they remembered that in a crisis situation we must EXPECT to be surprised. When there is uncertainty, we must remain on highest alert.

We must continue to work towards crisis preparedness at all our schools and campuses nationwide; and we must develop leaders who cultivate a culture of preparedness, a unity of effort and continual vigilance that upholds sound security and safety measures which are hallmarked by choosing an abundance of caution.

[Reprinted from the Sun-Sentinel website –

Schools locked down with sheriff's deputy killer on the run
Getaway vehicle abandoned near campuses
By Juan Ortega | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

As worries spread of a deputy killer on the loose, all 283 Broward County public and charter schools were locked down Wednesday for the first time. Some private schools and colleges also locked down their campuses.

Broward school officials made the countywide lockdown decision at the urging of the Broward Sheriff's Office. Investigators at the time didn't know the whereabouts of Michael Mazza, the suspect in the Wednesday morning slaying of Sheriff's Deputy Paul Rein. The shooting occurred in Pompano Beach, the getaway vehicle was found in Fort Lauderdale, but there was no sign of Mazza.

"Someone killed a deputy and we had no idea where he was," said Joe Melita, executive director of the special investigative crime unit for the Broward County School District. "Get on Interstate 95 and it's so easy to get from one end of the county to the other."

Melita said he helped decide to close access to all schools and keep students in classrooms. Melita said he couldn't recall another time in Broward in which a killer was on the loose during school hours. That, he said, led to the lockdown, which lasted more than three hours and ended at about 1 p.m., just after Mazza was arrested.

The district's countywide lockdown prompted the Archdiocese of Miami to also lock down all its 28 Catholic elementary and high schools in Broward, officials said.

"When we saw all Broward schools close, we felt we should follow that lead," said Kristen Hughes, the archdiocese's superintendent of elementary schools.

One of the archdiocese's schools, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, is a few blocks northeast of where the getaway vehicle was abandoned. That startled Annette Bell, whose son, Michael Formisano, is a 10th-grader there, she said.

"I was frantic and glued to the TV watching the news," said Bell, 47, of Weston.

Angela Porcayo, 41, of Fort Lauderdale, said she stayed calm, figuring her 11-year-old son, Juan, was safe in a classroom at Riverland Elementary. The school also is a few blocks from where the vehicle was abandoned.

"I was a bit scared, but I knew they have a lot of safety at school," Porcayo said.

Broward Community College locked down its Coconut Creek campus, which was about a mile west of where the shooting occurred. Also shut down was a BCC facility in Pembroke Pines, which is near a public charter school, officials said.


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