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In Wake of Connecticut Shooting, What are Seneca Valley's Emergency Procedures?

When Seneca Valley has an emergency, the district first utilizes AlertNow, a parent notification system, programmed to call the primary phone number listed for each child. Plus, learn more about police response to a school crisis from Jackson Towns

In the wake of the shocking shooting at a Newtown, CT, elementary school on Friday, Dec. 14, officials reunited parents with their children.

They had help from a reverse 911 call that automatically went out to parents of the public school students to notify them about the shooting.

The Seneca Valley School District has a similar system called AlertNow. Information about the system is contained in the student handbook, and is available on the district website.

Emergency Information (AlertNow)

When Seneca Valley has a closing or delay, the district first utilizes AlertNow, a parent notification system, which is programmed to call the primary phone number as listed for each child.

In an emergency situation, or in the event that the district goes from a two-hour delay to a closure, an emergency call will be sent to all provided numbers per student (this is the primary number and up to two additional numbers provided per child) so the information reaches all those affected by the emergency or change in status.

AlertNow information is collected/updated at the beginning of every school year, and parents are encouraged to call the district throughout the year to provide updates when necessary.

Working with Police

Chief Terry Seilhamer said police in Jackson Township, where Seneca Valley’s secondary campus is located, have worked with the district to form a comprehensive plan on how to deal with emergencies.

“There are certain responsibilities that they have and certain responsibilities that we have,” he said.

For example, Seilhamer said a key person at the school district, such as Superintendent Dr. Tracy Vitale, would be designated as the decision maker in a time of crisis.

A police officer also would be paired with the district’s spokesperson, Linda Andreassi, to coordinate the information released to the public, he said. The district would update the public on information regarding student and school matters. The officer would handle updates from police.

“They would work together, but they would have clear lines of responsibilities,” he said.

All district buildings have a number displayed in the windows to help identify the different areas to Jackson police, as well as to outside law enforcement agencies who may not be as familiar with the campus. There also are numbers on the roofs that are visible to aircrafts, Seilhamer said.

The chief said police regularly meet with the district’s staff to review the plan, which covers responses to a variety of potential scenarios. These include hostage situations and what do if there is an accident involving hazardous material on nearby Interstate 79.

In the summer months, officers also will do a walk through of the schools to re-familiarize themselves with the buildings, he said.

"The administration is really proactive as far as not waiting for an incident to happen," he said.

The district also has a constant police presence at the school.

School resource officer Hunter Ryan, a member of the Jackson Township police force, has an office at the secondary campus. Seilhamer said Ryan, a Marine veteran, acts as a liaison between the district and the police and also conducts classes on driving under the influence and the ramifications of drug use.

“He has excellent rapport with the students and staff,” Seilhamer said.

Police Investigate Seneca Valley Shooting Rumor

Just prior to Friday’s school shooting in Connecticut, Seilhamer said police began investigating a rumor that a student was planning a shooting at the senior high school.

Seilhamer called the information police received as "third hand" and vague, but said police are following up on it. He said Ryan and the administrative team at the senior high school are aware of the rumor.

“We’re looking into it,” he said. “If we feel it’s necessary, we will increase our uniformed police presence at the school.”

Jim G December 15, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Thanks to Chief Seilhamer for addressing the rumer of a planned shooting. The school needs to do a little more on this subject since this rumor has become viral among the students. My child is already talking about not going to school next Friday, The school district needs restore a sense of security to the students, and parents.
KJ December 15, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Should an armed guard in every school.
Mary December 16, 2012 at 03:06 AM
I know how you feel Jim and agree with you. My child and many friends are talking about not going to school on Friday because they are scared. I'm concerned that we haven't heard anything from the district about the rumor. I thought that the rumor was started because of the elementary school shooting, but learned that it started way before it ever happened. It seems like everyone knows about it, children have told me that teachers are concerned about it, and it was confirmed by the Cranberry Patch without any notification to the parents. . I would like to know from the school the validity of the rumor, and their plans for dealing with it.
sue December 16, 2012 at 03:44 AM
It seems as if we can get more info from the social media sites our kids use these days than we can from the district.
Mary December 16, 2012 at 02:27 PM
I was told by a friend that the school is refusing e-mails and phone calls from parents about the subject because they say that it is third hand information and they can't do anything about it! This friend's daughter is not going to school on Friday!
Anonymous December 17, 2012 at 03:56 AM
I'm a student...I say arrest the kid and interrogate him...and search his home and computer...if they've arrested people before for rumors they can certainly do it again...I'm scared to go to school
Mary December 17, 2012 at 11:28 AM
There was an alert now that went out to parents explaining some of the security plans for the school. After that are you still afraid and will your child be going to school on Friday??
Jessica Sinichak December 17, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Here's a link to an article detailing the superintendent's letter to parents regarding the shooting rumors. http://cranberry.patch.com/articles/seneca-valley-superintendent-addresses-shooting-rumor-in-letter-to-parents-reflects-on-sandy-hook-tragedy
Darryl December 17, 2012 at 02:45 PM
This says nothing about what steps are being taken to prevent access into the different district schools by intruders. The notification process is fine but does nothing to stop intrusions, neither does "after the fact" plans by the Jackson Township Police. Parents want intruders stopped before they can get into the buildings and harming students and staff. What is being done?
Jessica Sinichak December 17, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Dr. Vitale addresses security measures (including increased police presence in the coming days) in a letter to parents Sunday. The letter also details the what those measures are. Here's the Patch link to the article we did today: http://patch.com/A-0xyS Here's the link directly to the letter to parents: http://www.svsd.net/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&ModuleInstanceID=2785&ViewID=047E6BE3-6D87-4130-8424-D8E4E9ED6C2A&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=14832&PageID=1
Darryl December 17, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Butler School District schools now have armed guards in their buildings. An armed guard in the Sandy Hook Elementary may well have stopped the entire disaster before it could get started. Seneca Valley needs to follow the example fo Butler School District.
Jessica Sinichak December 17, 2012 at 03:07 PM
@Darryl, We posted a poll question Sunday asking readers if they think armed guards should be hired to protect schools. Feel free to join the conversation by clicking here! http://patch.com/A-0wCP

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