Police talk about communication protocol after gunman hoax at Pleasant Grove High

Posted at 10:04 PM, Dec 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-09 00:04:02-05

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah -- Reports of a gunman last week at Pleasant Grove High School turned out to be a hoax, but the lessons learned at the school are real.

"Basically all the phone circuits to some degree were tied up," said Sgt. Austin Edwards a member of the SWAT team with Pleasant Grove Police Department.

About 2,000 students got to Pleasant Grove High.  Multiply that by a few parents and calls between students and within minutes, phone lines were jammed.

"I can't fault anybody for being concerned or wanting to know the status of their child's well-being," Edwards said.

The school district does not have a set policy regarding cell phone use during an emergency.  It is up to each school, in each situation to determine the best course of action.

"It was a little difficult not being able to know what was going on and if he was OK," said Nancy Raisor of her son who was the school when it went into lockdown.

Raisor understands the need for balance but said it's unrealistic to think parents won't start calling their kids. She suggests letting them send one text, like the one she got from her son.

"He said, ‘yes I'm OK.’  Very blunt and just that and then I was good," she said.

The Alpine School District uses a system called Skylert to send emergency texts and emails to parents.  During the lockdown, messages were sent about an hour apart updating people on the developing situation, ending with the all clear.

"Every parent registers their information on this system," said Kimberly Bird, assistant to the superintendent of Alpine School District.

Police suggest using the school's alert systems and official social media pages for accurate updates.

But there is one group they are warning about the dangers of being tempted by social media -- the students in lockdown.

Edwards said students were spotted in uncovered windows, trying to snap pictures with their cell phones during the lockdown, putting them in a vulnerable spot had a gunman actually been on campus.