The alert comes in, a school is on lockdown. It is a moment all students and staff prepare for. It is a moment where multiple agencies come together to keep those in the building safe.
On Thursday, Sept. 9, that moment arose at Chanhassen High School. And while there was no threat, the situation — described as an electrical malfunction, or system error — was a reminder of what needs to happen, should it happen again.
"Usually we have some idea of what (the alert) is. Should it be something like an active shooter, we'd be getting a bunch of 911 calls. In this case we didn't have any idea," Patrick Barry, deputy chief for Carver County Sheriff's Department, said. "When we get the alert, it is about getting there and in the building as quick as we can. Stop the threat. Depending on the situation we will coordinate with our agencies for aid. We'll have fire and paramedics on standby."
Barry said every school has an alert system. For some it may be a panic button, similar to those in banks. At others, an announcement is made over the building's speaker system.
A lockdown can be initiated for a threat inside the building, or for a threat near the school.
"Currently in a school year we have five fire drills, we practice a severe weather drill once, and we have crisis management planning five times. That can be at a table top with administration where we are discussing procedures and planning. We then present a situation and practice with our staff and students," David Brecht, a member of the District 112 crisis team, said.
Despite being just three days in the school year and not having any drills yet, Brecht said even freshmen were prepared, having practiced in past school years at other district buildings.
"Traditionally, we had a hide and shelter-in-place procedure. A few years ago, we changed our method to a hide, run, encounter method. This was communicated with our parents and something we have practiced multiple times a year with our students and staff," Brecht said.
Barry said the system triggered and reset, an indication of a electrical issue. Still, Carver County Sheriff's Department had to treat the situation the same.
"We had to treat it like worst-case scenario. We went room by room, making sure everyone was safe. We had to go through the entire building before we could give the all-clear," Barry said.
He commended students and staff at Chanhassen High School for being prepared, and for their patience and attention.
"It was textbook on how we want people to behave. The school was well prepared for the situation. Everyone was doing what they are supposed to," Barry said.
"We act as if it is a lockdown with intruder. We're not going to waste time deciding if the threat is real or not in the moment. Time is an essence. We like to start with hide because most students are in classrooms with a door or can get to a place quickly that is safe. When you look at intruder studies, it's just a few minutes. It's soft or easy targets in open spaces. Often they're not getting into a room that is locked or barricaded, so that's the safest place to be," Brecht said.
While Brecht said he would never hope to "test our systems" that way, the crisis team and building leaders learned from the response and are better prepared for any future lockdowns.
Barry said while it is a natural reaction for parents to show up at the school in these situations, they urge them to remain on stand-by, at home or nearby.
"It's very tempting as they want to keep their kids safe. But it adds to the chaos. There's already a lot going on. Generally, we'd set up a place for them nearby. But with today's advances in technology, the ability to get a hold of their kids by text, calling them, other social media accounts, the real information gets out of there pretty quickly," Barry said.
The alert, which was triggered before 9 a.m., was dismissed around 10:45 a.m. The high school resumed its schedule with counselors in the building in the event a student or staff member had questions.
Students were given the opportunity to leave school for the day with verbal confirmation from a parent.