Ottawa schools and police say they are prepared for emergencies

The tragedy in Uvalde, Texas has left many looking for answers: How could this happen? Did police wait too long to storm the school? Respond with enough force? As the grim news spreads, parents are left to have heart-to-heart conversations with their children.

Twenty-one crosses out front of Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, each mark a life lost. Tuesday’s deadly rampage has captured global attention as many try to explain the inexplicable. 

“We live in a world where communication is just put out there for everyone,” says Dr. Richard Bolduc, a clinical psychologist with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. “The information that should be shared should be relative to their age group so when you’re going to be saying something to a Grade 2 or grade three year old, it might be very different than a message that will be integrated and processed for a high school student.”

Dr. Bolduc’s role is to lead, develop and implement the mental health, emotional well-being and addictions strategies across the OCSB to ensure all schools are safe and nurturing environments for students. 

In a time of crisis, students can be faced with stress and Bolduc says parents should listen to their children’s concern and provide compassion.

“The most important thing right now is to make sure you come together as a family,” says Bolduc. “And also understand that what’s being presented is extremely important that’s undeniable but what’s important is that information is being digested appropriately inside a family.”

Bolduc says school staff are ready to talk to students and are prepared for action as well. Elementary schools within the board keep doors locked, there are security cameras in place and lockdown and safe school procedures are practiced for the worst-case scenario.

“We have a crisis intervention team that comes into our schools and we make sure that the right people are there to service and help the families and we let our families know of these things when they do occur,” says Bolduc.

The Ottawa Police Services also have plans in place with a system known as Immediate Action Rapid Deployment.

“It is the system of response to major events like an active killer situation and those types of situations,” says Const. Chris Spriggs. “There are all different circumstances when IRD tactics would be appropriate as well as an armed barricaded person call could also be presented so it would be up to call for service and the subjects behaviours that would dictate our response.”

The Ottawa Police Service is a leader in IRD training and response which the majority of Canadian police forces now use.

“We also have the rescue task force model where we have special operations paramedics and special operations firefighters that come into the warm-zone quicker.”

There are many situations that can warrant police response and for schools to move into lockdown, and Bolduc says in times of stress, reaching out can help and has provided tips through the OCSB website.

“Our role is that we make sure that our students are safe on these events,” says Bolduc. “It’s important to focus on the resiliency of the people in our community we’ve really come a long way and we’ve learned a lot through this process together.”

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