12/14/2012 19:29 EST | Updated 02/13/2013 05:12 EST

Emergency protocols in place for Lower Mainland students

Vancouver school officials say they empathize with those mourning after Friday’s massacre of 20 young students and six adults at a school in Connecticut, but insist local schools — and students — are safe.

“The safety measures we have in place at the school board are excellent and I wouldn't expect any changes at this time,” said board spokesman Kurt Heinrich.

“But certainly any time something like this happens, one of the first things we're more concerned about and thinking about is to make sure that our students feel secure and safe in their school.”

Heinrich said school officials run regular drills with students to make sure they're familiar with what to do in case of emergency.

He also said school counsellors are standing by to help students affected by Friday's distressing news.

If there is a disturbance near a school, officials will lock a school's outside doors in a Code Yellow.

If a threat is closer, it will go to Code Red and go into a full-scale lockdown.

"We're always really careful and we'll always overreact if need be,” Heinrich said. “The safety of our students is the core thing for us.”

Similar precautions are taken by the Abbotsford School Board, according to spokesman Dave Stephen.

"We have a critical incident response team that meets throughout the year that includes members from the police department and other external agencies and we plan and look for any material that needs updating," Stephen said.

School officials in Burnaby also sought to reassure parents of school-aged children that protocols are in place to respond to crises.

“While the potential for such an incident taking place in our schools is low, in response to this incident, our school staff has reviewed our emergency management procedures,” Burnaby Mountain Secondary School principal Brian Jackson said in an email to parents Friday.

“Additionally, a strong partnership with the Burnaby RCMP ensures that we work together to keep our schools and communities safe. Staff has been asked to watch for student reaction and to offer support if needed.”