Parents concerned over communication in school emergency situations

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -  Before it was determined to be a hoax, the 'active shooter' call at Williams P-8 understandably brought parents in droves, awaiting information and access.

Many of the parents we spoke to say they heard the news from other parents, and many of them say that's a problem.

"I have a fifth grader at Williams P-8 Elementary, on the second floor where this supposed incident took place and I'm yet to receive notification that an incident had occurred," said Alicia Catney.

Other parents on the scene echoed her experience, saying they never got word that the school was on lockdown until they either saw it on social media or were alerted by other parents.

Officials with Huntsville City Schools say that, in cooperation with first responders, they practice for these types of things every summer, and that, from their perspective, the response Wednesday went well.

But all parents don't agree. At least, not when it comes to communication.

WHNT News 19 crews were with Alicia Catney when she eventually got an automated call from the school at 1:41 pm. Forty minutes earlier, Huntsville Police issued a Nixle message announcing the school, all students and all faculty were safe.

The initial alerts came over police scanners around noon.

Catney says she lives less than five minutes from the school, and says it is unacceptable to not hear from the school until 90 minutes into the situation.

"All I want to do is lay eyes on my child, make sure she's okay," said Catney. "Hopefully, Huntsville City Schools will come up with a preparedness process, notifying parents."

Keith Ward, spokesman with HCS, tells WHNT News 19 that the immense response shows that these situations are not taken lightly. He went on to say the school's first priority in those situations is to secure the children, and carefully choose when and what to release to the public.

Ward also said district officials will conduct their usual retroactive review of the situation to assess any improvements that need to be made to their emergency incident protocol.