F-M area proactive with safety drills - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

F-M area proactive with safety drills

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Fargo-Moorhead area leaders had safety on their minds May 7.

West Acres Mall in Fargo and the Moorhead Public School District held safety drills within an hour of each other to be proactive for the unpredictable.

"In this world that we live in today, unfortunately, anything can happen at any time and we feel that empowering our stores to keep themselves and the customers safe can only help," says West Acres Mall Property Manager Chris Heaton.

This morning was the first time the West Acres Mall tried out a new lock down plan. Practicing for an act of violence or severe weather, for example, stores were asked through a "code red" system and PA announcement to invite shoppers into their stores for shelter and then lock up.

"Then we'll have the stores close and lock their gates. My team will then sweep through the mall to you know, check things out," says Heaton.

Mall visitor Gail Johnson was there during the drill and says it helps her feel more secure:

"I think it's good for everybody to know that there are practices in place to keep everybody safe," she says.

There were still some bugs to be worked out of the system, but overall Heaton says the drill was a success. He says the mall will practice again for evening staff and again on the first Wednesday of every month from here on out.

Moorhead Public Schools District Evacuation

Just an hour later the Moorhead Public School District evacuated students from Ellen Hopkins Elementary School.

Every school in the district practices 10 drills a year, but this was a larger, district evacuation that happens once a year. The interim assistant superintendent says the district picks a new scenario and location each year and the drills help them learn skills to spread throughout the other schools.

"The process was they did a regular fire drill and then once it was determined that there was a fire and we couldn't go back in the school they called for an evacuation to our buses and our district line, which then triggers the district-wide response," says Interim Assistant Superintendent Jeremy Larson.

After being accounted for on the track, most students took a short trip around the school by bus, but a small group of them went to Alex Nemzek Hall at Minnesota State University Moorhead to practice the next step:

"Once the kids got here, they were checked in to our computer system that we created and then they were brought into their holding area," says Larson. "Then from there, they're checked in and the parents are checked in and they are reunified together and then they check out through our tech system," he says.

Larson says the drill today was a success, but the district plans on meeting with all area safety response teams involved and interviewing students to streamline the process.

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