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updated: 3/12/2013 6:23 PM

Mundelein District 75 refines crisis plan

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The school shootings in Newtown, Conn., have led Mundelein Elementary District 75 and local police to refine their crisis plan to maximize student safety and minimize risk, officials said.

Essentially, the adjustments allow the district to better align its response with that of local authorities, clearly defining the roles of people in a crisis situation, District 75 Superintendent Cynthia Heidorn said.

"What we've done now is just adjusted (the plan) so it matches the National Incident Management System, and our response will be coordinated," according to Heidorn.

The review was sparked by a Friday in December when Heidorn was at a meeting with peers and news of the school shootings became known.

"We were all looking at our cellphones in shock," she recalled. Knowing anxiety would be high, she and the principals at the district's three schools greeted students as they arrived the following Monday.

Mundelein police also stepped up their presence at District 75 the week following the tragedy and extended an offer to all schools in its jurisdiction to discuss the shootings, review crisis plans and update as needed.

"All the schools have been very aggressive in updating their crisis plans," Police Chief Eric Guenther said.

Administrators in District 75 met every Tuesday in January with Mundelein police, and a staff meeting was held in February.

The National Incident Management System, used by all police and fire departments, was created after the Sept. 11 attacks and is designed to centralize and coordinate responses and define roles and responsibilities, according to Guenther.

"People needed to be able to operate from the same platform," he said.

District 75's master crisis plan, like those in other districts, is a template for actions in variety of circumstances, such as a tornado, airplane crash, hazardous chemical spill or bomb threat, for example.

"It's just updated and more aligned with what our emergency officials are doing," Heidorn said.

District 75 administrators will be required to take online classes offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency by Aug. 1. Table top training exercises are planned and a lockdown drill with an intruder, last done by District 75 four years, ago is tentatively scheduled for April.

"We just want to make sure we prepare as best we can," Heidorn said.

Guenther said the department for years has worked with all area schools including Diamond Lake District 76, Fremont District 79, Mundelein and Carmel high schools.

"We've worked with all of those schools in the past four months," he said. "There's been a lot of discussion of moving forward with doing drills."

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