Robert Runcie Addresses Concerns Over Fire Alarms, Drills

Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie is reaching out to parents to address concerns over the frequency of safety drills and fire alarm system testing.

"The safety and security of our students and staff are our highest priorities," Runcie wrote in a letter sent out on Tuesday. "Emergency drills are intended to help students and staff know what to do should an actual emergency arise."

Last month, some Marjory Stoneman Douglas students said they had been traumatized after fire alarms went off for the fifth time in less than a month at the Parkland school. In August, on the second day back to classes, a student pulled a fire alarm at the school, causing trauma for many students including some who lived through the Feb. 14 mass shooting at MSD that left 17 people dead.

Other alarm issues were reported on August 30 and 31, and Sept. 11. After alarms went off on Sept. 12, officials determined it was caused by a "system malfunction."

Runcie said school districts are required to conduct monthly fire alarm drills and must conduct 10 fire drills every school year.

"Every school has an emergency preparedness manual that outlines the steps that must be taken when the fire alarm sounds whether for a planned drill or unplanned alarm," he wrote.

In addition, under the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, schools must conduct "critical incident drills" or "code red drills" as often as fire drills, Runcie said.

"The District monitors schools to ensure the code red drills are conducted in accordance with the new legislation. If a school is placed on lockdown during the course of the school day, the school may count the lockdown procedure toward the requirement to hold the drill for a particular month," he wrote.

Runcie also addressed recent incidents involving minors making false threats about violence at schools, saying they will continue to take all threats seriously.

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