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Should schools beef up security?

Published On: Dec 16 2012 07:00:00 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 17 2012 08:02:52 PM EST

Should schools beef up security?

As parents and loved ones in Newtown, Connecticut say goodbye to the tiniest victims of an elementary school mass shooting, tough questions are being asked in Berks County.

Is the county ready should a similar tragedy strike the region's schools?

Officials say they are ready, and have had extensive emergency response plans in place for four years now.

They say they are prepared for more than 20 different types of crisis situations, and have meticulous procedures for lockouts, lockdowns, evacuations and shelter.

"For a utility failure, a hazmat spill, a flood, an active shooter, a bomb threat, a suicide, and then there'll be procedural checklists for each of the school districts to work through," said Jill Hackman, assistant executive director, Berks County Intermediate Unit.

Administrators say preparedness will be vital in making sure students are protected.

"It's really important that our schools go through those exercises and routines and our staff members are informed on our they respond to such a crisis," said Hackman.

Meetings started back in November, with a focus on making sure that ambulance, police, and firefighters can respond to tragedies, jointly, without any confusion.

"The fire services workgroup, emergency management services, and we also have our local law enforcement, our state police, and chiefs of police who are partnering with us with regards to drills and practice," said Hackman.

"Unfortunately, we learn from other events in life whether something works or it doesn't work, so you have to critique your plans and make sure it properly works out," said Chief Paul R. Stoltz, Jr., Caernarvon Twp., Police Dept.

Revised emergency safety procedures should be in place by March.