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Hermiston Police to respond to unplanned fire alarms at schools

Hermiston Police announced the policy last week, citing the occasional use of a fire alarm being pulled by a shooter as a way to get students and teachers out into open areas. Responding officers will put on tactical gear when responding to unexpected fire alarms.

The Hermiston Police Department adopted a new policy recently, requiring officers to respond to all unplanned fire alarms at their area schools.

The officers would also wear tactical gear.

"This is going to be for those activations where an alarm goes off and it wasn't anticipated and we will respond accordingly,” says Hermiston PD Chief Jason Edmiston.

Chief Edmiston announced the policy last week, citing the occasional use of a fire alarm being pulled by a shooter as a way to get students and teachers out into open areas.

The tactic was used last month during a shooting at a Florida high school. The shooter killed 17 people in the chaos.

Chief Edmiston says they got the idea from a private school in the area after they asked officers to respond for fire alarms.

"The average response time for law enforcement is three to four minutes. For fire department, it's a little bit more than that."

HPD says the gear they’ll wear would include a ballistic vest, a ballistic helmet and a rifle put in a sling. Responding officers would also carry a satchel with a first aid kit inside.

Altogether, it only takes about a minute to put on all of the gear.

Chief Edmiston says their goal is not to scare students and parents, but to be prepared.

“I think we are slowly getting to a point where we know we need to be as proactive as possible and this is just one step towards that."

He adds that it's still up to firefighters to investigate if a fire alarm is false, but says police will investigate if someone did pull it intentionally.

Chief Edmiston says one thing they're considering is at setting up a lunch once a month with students at different schools. He says it would be a way to learn the buildings' layouts and to interact in a positive manner with the students.

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