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Harvard police, fire have school safety well in hand

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HARVARD — With the start of a new school year this week, Police Chief Edward Denmark said he and his team are ready to respond to any emergency and an updated safety handbook for all school staff will prepare them as well.

The safety handbook consists of visible tabs that list possible school emergencies, including fires, stranger/intruders in the building, and shootings, to name a few. Each category has a list of easy-to-read items that lay out what to do if an event occurs. All teachers and staff members are required to store it in their top desk drawer.

Denmark, with the help of the Fire Chief Rick Sicard, met with the schools’ key personnel to go over any and all potential emergencies.

“We wanted to create something that wasn’t so cumbersome that it couldn’t be used in an emergency, so we came up with a tabbed chart that would make for easy access,” Denmark said.

The initial emergency flipbook was created last year, but has since been finalized for the new school year. Each year, the HPD trains school staff to be prepared for all potential incidents. Fortunately, the books have only been needed for drills.

“This is something we have worked on for years, and especially after the Newtown incident. Everyone has been working to renew their plans, but we really didn’t need to,” Denmark said. “We have been kind of ahead of the curve, and this is just a continuation of what we’ve been doing all along.”

There will be a heightened police presence during the start of the school year to help mostly with traffic flow. An officer is present at the elementary school every day. Although there is not a designated school resource officer, Denmark hopes to assign one this year.

Denmark spoke with incoming freshman last year about the legalities behind Internet safety, drug and alcohol use, and “sexting,” or sending sexually explicit messages or photographs via mobile phones.

“We stay pretty involved even when there isn’t an official school resource officer,” Denmark said.

“We have been doing this for a while now,” said Denmark of his department’s preparedness. “We’re pretty comfortable that we know what to do if anything were to happen.”

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