School fire alarm protocols change after shootings

HARTFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — It used to be that if a fire alarm sounded in a West Michigan school, students evacuated immediately. That’s no longer the case in an increasing number of districts.

“It’s a total change from the way we’ve done things for years,” said Gary Brown, the chief safety officer at Van Buren County Intermediate School District.

On Monday morning, when an unscheduled fire alarm went off at Hartford High and Middle School in Van Buren County, the students sheltered in their classrooms while administrators investigated.

“We tell the kids to shelter in place,” Principal Dave Janicki explained. “We do not evacuate.”

Instead, the school officials call police, pinpoints which alarm sounded, check security cameras to see if someone tripped it, and walk the halls and grounds looking for anything suspicious.

On Monday, the culprit turned out to be a malfunctioning alarm.

Harford Public Schools, which is part of the Van Buren Intermediate School District, changed its fire alarm protocol last spring after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a fire alarm sent students streaming into the hallways — and the path of a gunman. Seventeen people were killed.

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