Emergency Procedures

  • Safety begins with prevention and having a plan in place. State law requires schools to conduct nine drills a year, including practice for shelter-in-place, lockdown and evacuation. Our Department of Campus Safety coordinates and trains on a regular basis with local law enforcement, fire department, and other emergency response agencies. Every Spokane Public Schools site has security cameras, and all will soon have a secure single point of entry. Many schools also have volunteer safety programs, such as Watch D.O.G.S. Ask your school how you can get involved in keeping our students safe.

    Parents, if there is an emergency at your child’s school, please help us by doing the following things:

    • Check the SPS homepage at spokaneschools.org, the SPS Facebook page or our Twitter feed. We will provide credible, accurate and useful information to the public as soon as possible. Expect to see our posts updated as necessary. We will also provide updates to local media, but be aware that emergency situations can change rapidly. Information received from sources other than the school administrator or SPS communications office may be inaccurate. 

      In addition, we will use our BrightArrow phone and text notification system to contact parents and guardians with updates and information in as timely a manner as possible. Please make sure your emergency contact information is always up to date at your child's school.

    • Do not call or go to the school. In an emergency, onsite staff are focused solely on getting everyone to a safe location. Showing up to the site can create unnecessary traffic, preventing emergency vehicles from responding quickly, and may also put you in danger.

      If you get a call or text from your student, help him or her remain calm. Remind your student that school staff know what to do in an emergency situation, and will work to keep everyone safe.

    • Familiarize yourself with the terms used during emergency situations:
      • Modified Lockdown: Used to secure the building from a potential threat outside the building, such as when an unauthorized person is loitering on school grounds or when there is criminal activity in the neighborhood. Exterior doors are locked, but normal activities continue inside the building.
      • Lockdown: Used when there is a perceived danger inside the building. Doors are locked, windows are closed and locked, blinds are closed. People are directed to move away from windows and doors. Hallways are cleared of students and school staff.
      • Evacuation: When students and staff are moved out of the building to a pre-designated safe location.
      • Shelter-in-place: Used during severe weather or other environmental threats (e.g., air contamination due to a local fire) to keep people safe while remaining indoors.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the district handle threats of violence?

School staff follow practiced procedures to ensure that students and the public are safe and secure. The principal and his/her team first contact emergency services and then district administrators who initiate a building crisis team to gather information on the type and degree of threat.

SPS office staff have been trained to react to all threats of violence in a prescribed manner, based on consultation with law enforcement. All calls are treated as real, and we report them to local, regional and national law enforcement as appropriate for investigation and prosecution.

If a threat is deemed credible, students and staff will evacuate the building and go to a pre-determined safe location. Families will be notified via BrightArrow as soon as students have reached the safe location. Evacuation does not necessarily mean that school is over for the day. SPS can arrange for buses to keep students safe and warm in the event of poor weather. Notification regarding school being released for the day will ONLY come from the SPS central office, and will include the reason for the release and pickup instructions.

When are parents notified about a school emergency?

When a critical incident impacts a school community, we notify parents as soon as possible via our BrightArrow notification system. Please make sure your emergency contact information is always up to date at your child’s school. Also check the SPS homepage at spokaneschools.org, the SPS Facebook page, or our Twitter feed for updates.

Typically, emergency situations are fluid and multiple agencies are involved, so communication is coordinated through the “lead agency,” which may cause a delay in notification. We will provide as much credible, accurate and timely information as possible. Information received from sources other than the school administrator or SPS communications office may be inaccurate.

Are there times when families aren’t notified about an emergency?

Buildings are sometimes placed in modified lockdown for a brief amount of time, when a school is, for example, notified by law enforcement that a search or arrest warrant is being served nearby. During a modified lockdown, students are brought in from outdoors, but other activities within the school continue as normal. Most modified lockdowns are for very short periods and often students are unaware that one is occurring. If a modified lockdown lasts longer than approximately 10 minutes or causes major disruption in the normal school day, SPS will generally notify families via BrightArrow.

What do I do if I see or hear of a threat after school hours?

All SPS staff and members of the community are encouraged to report anything they see, hear or are made aware of if it may impact a school or school program.

If you see or hear something, say something: call 911 or the SPS Department of Campus Safety at 509-354-5934.

SPS Campus Safety and, if required, SPD will determine the course of action and next steps in order to maintain a safe and secure school environment.

What is SPS doing to increase the safety of its schools?

Following recommendations from comprehensive safety-security study done in 2014, and using funding from the 2015 school improvement bond, we initiated additional security measures in all 52 sites that:

  • Increased the number of commissioned Campus Resource Officers (one at every high and middle school, two itinerants, two supervisors north and south)
  • Increased the number of mental health therapists in our schools
  • Initiated an anonymous tip-text line for all students in crisis or with tips of impending danger
  • Increased employment qualifications and trainings for all current and future Campus Resource Officers
  • Updated each school's emergency and response plans annually
  • Installed a visitor badge entry system with built-in specialized background check
  • Installed single-point of entry at all 52 school sites, limiting access to front door and requiring buzz-in for entry during school hours
  • Installed specialty locks on ALL classrooms in the district, allowing all educators to lock their interior door
  • Increased the number of high definition closed circuit cameras to over 1,800
  • Increased training with Spokane Police Department, including active shooter training
  • Developed a threat response before student re-entry team of highly skilled professionals from a variety of fields for students expelled due to behaviors
  • Increased emphasis and follow up on shelter-in-place (lockdown) and evacuation drills for all sites. (Six shelter-in-place and three evacuations per-site per-year)
help signs