VALPARAISO — Run. Hide. Defend.
These are three words that students across Porter County will be hearing a lot in the upcoming months, but that no one hopes they will ever have to put into use.
The message is part of an instructional effort aimed at keeping students and school staff safe should a threat of violence arise, such as a school shooter, said Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds.
What makes the effort unique is that all seven public school districts in the county, as well as private schools, have ditched their former and often lengthy safety policies and embraced a more condensed and uniform response, he said.
This uniform response appears to be the first of its kind in the Region.
A 23-minute video aimed at explaining the response to school officials, students and parents was premiered Friday morning as part of the wider "One County, One Protocol" effort.
"This was a really huge production," said Jesse Harper, who created the video in conjunction with area police and school officials.
The goal was to generate a sense of urgency among students without scaring them, he said.
The video begins with voiceovers from the past three presidents commenting about school tragedies that happened under their watch.
In scenes that are often chilling, students and staff are instructed on how to respond to threats occurring both inside and outside school buildings.
When the threat is still outside, the phrase "lock out" will be repeated over the school's intercom system and staff will be triggered to bring all students inside and make sure all exterior doors are locked.
"Once inside, it is business as usual," according to the video.
School activities are anything but usual when a threat is discovered within a building. The video instructs that a "lockdown" will be announced, at which time classroom doors are locked, lights are turned off and students are to do their best to stay out of sight.
"If you can be heard, the intruder knows where you are," the video instructs.
If discovered, students are told to "fight for your lives."
The video also gives instructions for evacuating a building.
Julie Lauck, associate superintendent of the Valparaiso Community Schools, said the video will make its premier in her school system in January.
The uniform nature of the response means that she and others will know how to respond no matter which building they are in if a threat of violence is discovered, she said.
Reynolds said the video will also serve as deterrent to violence by showing students, parents and others that an effective response is in place.
Funding for the $17,000 video was shared by the county's schools and the Region's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, he said.
LaPorte County Sheriff's Capt. Mike Kellems said there is not an equivalent uniform response among the schools in his county, but it is a logical next step once the department activates its fifth school resource officer soon.
"It's a good idea," he said.
Lake County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Mark Back said he knew of no uniform school safety response in his county.