December 5, 2018
On November 27th, the City of Mill Valley Police and Fire Departments received notice of a bomb threat at the Mill Valley Middle School. School officials quickly placed the entire campus of approximately 1200 students, teachers, staff and administrators on shelter in place, and then ordered an evacuation to the Mill Valley Community Center.
At the Center, the call went out among staff that the Middle School was evacuating and heading their way. The staff, who had earlier this year completed an American Red Cross shelter management training, began preparing the facility for the arrival of hundreds of students, staff, and shortly after, the parents and guardians seeking to reunify with their children.
Mill Valley School District administration officials put out the notice to parents/guardians – the school had been evacuated and the students were available for pick up at the Community Center. Mill Valley Police staff sent a Nixle alert with community-wide information, and asked everyone within a half-mile radius from the school to shelter-in-place.
At the Center, Recreation staff spread out to prepare – setting up rooms for students, putting on bright yellow vests to direct traffic, setting up tables to create a reception area for school administrators and parents. Staff quickly set up a tent to provide shelter from the rain, and many hands were on deck for answering phones, giving directions, and providing whatever was needed. Public Works and Building Department staff arrived from the Corporation Yard and City Hall to assist with traffic on Camino Alto.
Back at the school, the Mill Valley Police and Fire Departments, aided by neighboring local law enforcement agencies, set up a perimeter around the Middle School grounds and, with the help of specially trained K-9 units began the search of the facility.
City and Mill Valley School District staff reached out to the media and conducted on-camera interviews and answered questions. Parents and guardians filled the parking lot and Community Center lobby to be reconnected with their children. While parents lined up in front of the building, school and city staff worked efficiently to deliver and check out the students to the appropriate parents or guardians.
Within the span of two and half hours, all but a handful of the students had been released. The remaining students and school staff ate a warm lunch provided by the school at the Community Center. By early-afternoon, the Police had completed their search of the school, gave the “all clear,” and lifted the shelter-in-place notice.
Mayor Stephanie Moulton-Peters said that the evacuation and reunification at the Community Center went extremely well. “I want to thank everyone for being so well prepared and for conducting a smooth process during a stressful incident. The City, Middle School staff and students train and prepare for these types of emergencies, we really appreciate everyone’s cooperation and efforts.”
“It is never a call you want to get, but when the call comes in, I was glad we were so well prepared,” Director of Arts and Recreation Jenny Rogers said. “Our recent training really came in handy – we practiced over 15 different scenarios to challenge the staff during a mock shelter activation. I am glad that we were able to provide this resource and comforting service to the Middle School and our Mill Valley families.”
The Mill Valley Police Department received support from neighboring agencies, including Marin County Sheriff’s Office, Sausalito Police Department, Tiburon Police Department, Central Marin Police Authority, California Highway Patrol and San Francisco Police Department.
“We want to thank all the participating agencies for their quick response. Although it is unfortunate to have to respond to such a call, our first responders are extremely well trained and prepared,” Interim Police Chief Jackie Graf said. “We regularly prepare and practice evacuation procedures with all Mill Valley schools. We appreciate the Middle School staff and students who conducted themselves so calmly during the evacuation, and the parents for their cooperation in the reunification process.”
Related to the incident, she said “We are still conducting an investigation into the source of the bomb threat. We will advise the community once we have more information to share.”
Public officials agreed that preparedness and training were essential elements of a successful response, and remind the community of the importance of being prepared. Having a go-bag and evacuation plan is key. Click here for more resources.