Huntington Beach Officer Derek Young hopes he’ll never have to use the plan he spent years working on.
Until two years ago, there was not an official school plan in place to handle critical incidents.
Then in December 2012 a gunman entered a Connecticut elementary school, fatally shooting 20 students and six staff members, effectively shattering the sense of security parents across the nation once had when dropping their children off at school.
In January 2013, Young was tasked with drafting up a plan to prepare for the unimaginable but, as the Sandy Hook shooting proved, not the impossible.
Young, one of the department’s two school resource officers serving 45 schools, wants Huntington Beach to be as prepared as possible for these types of emergencies, he said.
“After Sandy Hook, that gave me a chance to really implement my plan because people wanted to know what we could do,” Young said. “There was a need for it.”
Young said he knew exactly how to improve school safety.
“Basically, there are two things schools can do with the students during an emergency; they can either lockdown or they can evacuate,” he said.
During the last school year, Young held trainings for school administrators on “run, hide, fight” — the Department of Homeland Security’s recommended plan to handle an active shooter.
He also developed a new citywide school evacuation plan, which he completed in January 2014.
The plan includes coordinating emergency and school personnel and city resources, and designating off-site locations for student evacuations.
“I knew it would take teamwork between the police department and the schools,” he said. “Evacuating up to 3,000 students and reuniting them with their families, in an organized manner, is no easy task.”
Young also created the Huntington Beach Safe Schools Coalition, which is an agreement between the schools to provide mutual aid when an emergency that prompts an evacuation occurs.
This school year, Young has trained nearly 300 employees on the new plan.
“We really put a lot of work into this,” Young said. “I think all the planning, preparation and training is definitely worth it.
“We, as a city, are more prepared to handle a critical school incident than we were two years ago.”
Young was awarded the Huntington Beach Mayor’s Award in December 2013 and the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center’s Distinguished Safe School Award in July 2014 for his work on school safety.
Young has been with the Huntington Beach Police Department for 14 years — the last nine he’s served as a school resource officer.