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Salem school officials review safety plans

February 28, 2012

SALEM - Salem school officials reviewed their safety plans Monday while their colleagues an hour and a half away in Chardon dealt with the aftermath of a shooting which left one student dead, four injured and one in custody.

"My heart goes out to them," Superintendent Tom Bratten said when contacted by phone.

The shooting occurred early Monday morning and as the reports started coming out in the media, Bratten touched base with his building principals. He asked them to touch base with their teachers and staff to make sure everybody was still comfortable with what they're supposed to do in case there's a lockdown.

He also notified school board members about what happened in Chardon and how he responded to keep them aware.

He explained the district has plans in place that address everything from earthquakes to chemical leaks to assaults or any other type of emergency and they've practiced lockdown drills in case they have to place the buildings on lockdown.

"God forbid you ever have to use it, but you have to be prepared in case you do," he said.

At the beginning of the school year, they review those plans and then hold drills throughout the year with the students and teachers. They also make sure their contact information is up to date for all the major players, such as police, fire and EMS. They've provided the police with maps of the district buildings.

Bratten said this was a good opportunity for the district to review the plans and review the procedures with the staff. The plans cover a wide range of things they would have to consider, such as where to take students if they have to evacuate, and how to contact parents. The school district has a phone call-out system for parents and would also place information on the school website.

"I feel comfortable that we're as ready as we'll be if something happens," he said.

Seeing the Chardon events unfolding gave him a queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach as an administrator, noting that even with all the plans in place, "nobody's ever prepared for something like this."

He said if somebody wants to do something bad enough, they're going to do it. His hope is that if anyone ever hears of some type of threat, that they'll speak up and tell somebody, such as a teacher or parent or police officer.

It's not something they'll take lightly. He also said the district has anti-bullying programs in place.

Salem Police Chief Bob Floor said his officers have trained with Perry Township Police officers, the Columbiana County Sheriff's Office and the county's Special Response Team for a school lockdown situation and actually held training sessions at the high school in recent years.

"We have plans at each and every school in the city," he said, including St. Paul School, explaining they know how and where they'll make entry if it becomes necessary.

"We have all of our procedures in place. We know how to respond," Floor said. "I believe we're prepared for any contingency we can perceive. You just have to be adaptable for the unforeseeable."

With the instant access and communication now available through social media, information about what happened at Chardon and about who was allegedly involved was hitting the blogs fast.

When asked if that would be an advantage or disadvantage for authorities trying to deal with a situation like that, Floor said it would be both. He said it would be an "absolute advantage to have the additional information being put out, but it could also add to the misinformation as well as the panic."

In the case of Salem police, placing a video of a robbery suspect on the department's Facebook page helped lead to his arrest due to all the comments from people who recognized him. He said it's never going to go back to the way it was before the technology came - they just have to learn how to deal with it.

Floor offered his condolences to the families and friends of the victims in Chardon.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at



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