In light of the tragedy in Broward County, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office recognizes that parents in our community woke up this morning all asking the same question; “What can I do to keep my child safe?” Many of our own deputies are also parents, so we understand those extra kisses and slightly longer hugs this morning at parent drop-off.
The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office has a School Resource Officer stationed at each school in Charlotte County, with the exception of three public schools in the City of Punta Gorda (staffed by PGPD officers). Our deputies inside the schools are certified School Resource Officers, which means they have attended advanced education training pertaining to working in the school environment. Our Juvenile Unit works closely with the Charlotte County Public School’s Security and Emergency Management Supervisor, with whom they have had conversations today about the status of our campuses. In addition to the School Resource Officers, we ensure that deputies assigned to districts that contain a school are familiar with the campus layout and campus-specific hazard plans.
In the law enforcement community, we train and prepare for the emergency events to which we respond. This training, which is sometimes simple discussion of scenarios, leads to a more educated and streamlined response during a real-life incident. It is important that we also talk to our children about their response in an emergency, to ensure that they are prepared to handle themselves in any scenario.
Communication is the most important key to safety in our community. We frequently remind residents that if they see something out of the ordinary in their neighborhood, they should say something to law enforcement. This vigilance also applies to our children and their friends, especially when it comes to social media postings. Monitor your children’s social media accounts, and talk to them when you see something concerning. If you are not satisfied with their response, communicate your concerns to your child’s School Resource Officer.
Children should also be encouraged to say something when they see something that is not right. Do your best to create an environment for them in which they feel safe to voice concerns about something they see.
One of the most important things your child needs to know in an emergency is your contact information – without looking at their cell phone. Tonight, practice memorizing each other’s numbers. You may find older children have a harder time with this because of the dependency on electronics. Stress that their cell phone may not be readily available during or after a major event.
If you feel your child is old enough, talk to them about what could happen in an active violent situation, and run through what they think their response would be. If they take time to consider and talk about what could happen, it will prepare them mentally to react – not freeze – in a real situation. Talk about action plans for different scenarios, and consider locations these events could happen, even outside of a school setting.
Discuss their three options in an active threat situation: run, hide, or fight. Come up with fake scenarios to discuss and work through different responses your child may have.
RUN – Getting away from the shooter or shooters is the top priority. Leave your things behind and run away. If safe to do so, warn others nearby. Call 911 when you are safe. Describe each shooter, their locations, and weapons.
HIDE – If you can’t get away safely, find a place to hide. Get out of the shooter’s view and stay very quiet. Silence your electronic devices and make sure they won’t vibrate. Lock and block doors, close blinds, and turn off the lights. Try to communicate with police silently, through text messages (Text to 911) or by putting a sign in an exterior window. Stay in place until law enforcement gives you the all clear.
FIGHT – Your last resort when you are in immediate danger is to defend yourself. Commit to your actions and act aggressively to stop the shooter. Ambushing the shooter together with makeshift weapons such as chairs, fire extinguishers, scissors, and books can distract and disarm the shooter.
The safety and security of our students in Charlotte County is a top priority, not only for our agency, but also for our community. It is an effort in which we must all work together to ensure success.