1236553_516654798409723_1439671525_nDear Community of Holy Family:
In light of the recent event concerning South Pasadena High School, where detectives stopped a potential mass shooting, some of you will be feeling understandable concern about the safety and security of our own campus at Holy Family.  It’s clearly both timely and important to review our current and planned safety and security procedures (find details on this page), since the security and safety of all is of paramount importance for both our parish and school.
Firstly, we want to emphasize that Holy Family’s relationships with our city institutions, including the School District, the Police and Fire Departments, and the City Council, are excellent.  South Pasadena is a close knit community, which is an incredible asset in ensuring the safety of our parishioners on our campus, especially our children and teens.  It was the close knit relationship between the High School and the Police Department which averted what could have been a terrible tragedy.
Holy Family has had a history of working closely with the Police and Fire Department, and over the last few months we have taken steps to strengthen that relationship.  As you will see below, we have been reviewing our safety and security readiness, as well as our disaster and emergency preparedness.  This has included reaching out to both departments to help us in our planning, as well as in the training of our staff.  
To give you one example: in May, Holy Family was asked to participate in an active shooter response exercise at the High School that involved members of multiple area police and fire departments, as well as school personnel.  The St. Joseph Center parking lot was used to locate the Command Center, and staff and faculty from both the school and parish, along with the Chair of Holy Family’s Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Committee, were invited to observe the exercise.  While there, we met with officials at the South Pasadena Police Department to identify a main point of contact in the event of an emergency, and also to discuss an appropriate training examining different emergency scenarios for Holy Family School and parish; the training is planned for early this year.
Over the past several months, we have made an exhaustive assessment of the safety and security of the parish and the school, as well as working hard to be better prepared in the event of a disaster or emergency.  

After the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, the school implemented specific new procedures in the event of an intruder on campus. These included the following:

  • Locked exteriors on the South side of the education building during the times students are in the classroom; one door is to remain unlocked when the students are at recess or lunch.

  • Each classroom with two doors is to have one door locked at all times, while students use the open door for entrance to the classroom.

    In September of last year, we convened the Security for Children’s Ministries Joint Task Force, which consisted of members of the School Board and the Safeguard the Children Committee, as well as other members of our parish.  These participants have extensive law enforcement, child welfare, or school architecture backgrounds.  They are all parents of current and graduated Holy Family students.   They completed a comprehensive report with recommendations for the school and parish in June 2014.  We have begun to implement their recommendations, including the following:

  • An additional storage structure has been added to the campus grounds in order to maintain three days worth of water for 400 people in the event of an emergency.

  • The school will have assigned monitors stationed at the north campus access from Rollin, and also at the east end (near the Gathering Area) during recess, lunch and other times when children are on the grounds of the school exterior.

  • Improved access control through the provision of lanyards to all campus visitors who will be required to sign in at the school office.

  • Improved communication tools that include SchoolReach, where we can send real time messages and alerts to parents in the event of an emergency.

Several recommendations of the task force are in process; these include:

  • Replacement of the current video surveillance system with high-quality cameras placed in strategic locations.

  • A review and repair of the gates and fences along the Ramona Avenue perimeter.

  • Provision for new gates at the north and south entrances to the Education Center perimeter.

  • Installation of an aesthetically pleasing barrier between the Education Center yard and the parking lot.

Finally, the administration at Holy Family School has been in touch with the main contact at the South Pasadena Police Department. Should an emergency situation transpire in the near or long term, we will be immediately notified by authorities.
In general, Holy Family Parish and School have developed and maintained clear emergency procedures in light of a disaster or emergency scenario. These include routinely practiced protocols for what to do in the event of a fire, earthquake or lockdown.

During the past six months, our parish and school staff and faculty, working with our Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Committee, have reviewed, refined and updated our emergency response protocols. The steps we have taken include:

  • Restructuring parish staff assignments so that a significant part of the Operations Director’s responsibility is oversight for the Emergency Disaster and Preparedness plan.

  • Completely restructuring and integrating our emergency plan to create parish/school teams responsible for post evacuation operations, such as:  search and rescue, damage assessment/mitigation, triage/First Aid, logistics, student assembly, request and release/request for reunions, and spiritual care and mental health.  We are in the process of integrating the school and parish emergency procedures so that our response is seamless.

  • Providing additional training to support the revised emergency procedures, while continuing to provide training in CPR and First Aid for parish and school staff and faculty, as well as key volunteers, such as ushers.

  • Ensuring that water, food, blankets, toilet facilities, and other necessary supplies are available and adequately stored on site for 400 people over a 3 day emergency period (as per the above recommendation of the Security for Children’s Ministries Joint Task Force).  

  • Conducting a thorough assessment of the readiness of the campus facilities as well as to mitigate hazards, both interior and exterior, to ensure that the campus is as physically safe as possible.  We are currently in the process of implementing the necessary modifications identified through the assessment.

  • Ongoing planning for an information night for parents, in which disaster preparedness will be discussed in general, and procedures for parents to follow will be examined specifically; this will be scheduled for early this year.  

In addition, we will continue to actively work with public safety resources, as new information emerges, to improve our readiness program.
We hope that this overview will provide you with an assurance of the high importance we place on the security and safety of all who are present on our Holy Family campus.  Both of us are more than happy to answer questions or address concerns that you have after reading this.
We look forward to a great year ahead for our parish and school, one which is full of vibrancy, energy and joy, as we try our very best to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to life in all that we do and in everything that we embrace.
Yours in Christ,
Dr. Frank Montejano                Cambria Tortorelli
Principal                                      Parish Life Director
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