School officials participate in safety training

Limestone County Schools psychologist Patty Carson practices using a telescoping baton Thursday in Athens. She and other Limestone schools officials are learning how to use batons, pepper spray and other measures to buy time until law enforcement can arrive to an active shooter situation.

Patty Carson hopes she will never have to implement what she learned Thursday in Limestone County. She and other Limestone County Schools personnel learned how to react to an active shooter in the schools using a new system called Safe Defend.

The system includes 600 finger-print activated lock boxes that contain pepper spray, a telescoping wand, a strobe flashlight and various first-aid items, such as a tourniquet. These items are not intended to prepare school personnel to attack an active shooter but to prevent them from entering their classroom to harm students or the teacher until law enforcement arrive on scene.

When a teacher activates the Safe Defend box, not only does every teacher and administrator get notified by text and email of an active shooter emergency, the system also alerts law enforcement and even tells them where in the building the box was activated. That tells other teachers whether they can try to escape with their students or stay put. It also tells law enforcement where in the building the shooting began.

“I hope and pray we never have to use it, but we have to protect the children,” said Carson, a psychologist serving students at Creekside Elementary School, East Limestone High School, the Central Office and Tanner High School. She said she and other school personnel are not afraid that training for an active-shooter situation will make the school environment more unsafe.

“It makes us feel better prepared. It makes me feel a lot better.”

Limestone County Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas Sisk said the schools paid a one-time cost of $400,000 for the 600 boxes, which works out to about $35 per person considering there are 9,000 students and 1,000 personnel. He believes it is the best safety system available today because it is different than cameras, locks or other methods. Jeff Green, a former Kansas school principal, worked with law enforcement and other professionals to create Safe Defend Personnel Protection and Shelter in Place Systems for schools, hospitals, government buildings and corporate offices. The mass shooting at the elementary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, forced him to see that most schools do not have an adequate safety plan.

“The typical approach of locking an intruder out, hiding and hoping has proven ineffective time and time again,” he said.

Training in the Limestone County Schools will continue Jan. 3 and 4, 2016.

Sisk said he learned about Safe Defend while attending a national conference.

“This stands out because it integrates communication with first response and empowering everybody to be a first responder.”

Reporter

Reporter for News Courier since 2006.

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