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Votes

Keeping Children Secure

Fairfax County Public Schools, like the rest of the nation, has been on "high" alert status, or code orange on the terrorist threat index since Feb. 7.

For students and staff that means all schools have updated their own crisis management plans within the last 12 months, which includes threat evaluation and shelter-in-place measures, where students would be temporarily kept indoors in the event of a chemical or biological threat in the immediate area and reunited with parents either at the school or a "reunification site" once the threat is over. Students in trailers would be moved inside, time permitting, or kept inside the trailers until the threat is over.

"Shelter-in-place is a short-term plan. We would not keep students in schools for long periods of time. It's a matter of hours," said Daniel Domenech, schools superintendent.

"I have not instructed schools to store food or clothing. I have not advised principals to buy duct tape and plastic."

Domenech said that in the event that schools go into a shelter-in-place mode, parents will not be able to pick their children up until the threat has passed.

"If we're forced to go into shelter-in-place that means something outside the school has occurred that is deadly and parents wouldn't survive even if emergency personnel allowed them to get through," he said.

In addition, since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the school system has been a part of the Fairfax County Emergency Operations Center, which is overseen by the county executive. The school system is a member of the emergency team that coordinates planning for police fire and the Health Department.

Domenech said that if the terror alert should be raised to code red, or severe, all outside activities, including field trips, would be canceled, building security would be increased, and parking near school sites would be limited. The school system's own Incident Command and Support center would be activated, under the direction of the superintendent, who will determine the status of school openings and closings. The schools system's emergency center will also coordinate parent-child reunification at appropriate sites, if the children had to be evacuated, or at the schools.

For more information about the school system's emergency preparedness, visit the Web site at www.fcps.edu/DOC/support. During an emergency, information is available on the school system's hot line at 703-246-2500 and on Cox Cable channel 21. To receive emergency announcements via e-mail, sign up for the "Keep in Touch" service at www.fcps.edu.