February 13, 2016

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Safety still forefront in educators’ minds

Published 10:07 am Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Franklin County Assistant Superintendent Charley Preston was intimidated when three automatic weapons were aimed at his head but that was the point of the training.

Preston played the role of an active shooter in a late December training session for Frankfort and Franklin County emergency responders at Western Hills High School.

It was one of the most intimidating things Ive been through, Preston told Board of Education members Tuesday.

There are literally three automatic weapons aimed at your head. There are people yelling at you to get down. It was very serious, and our folks were very professional.

While Preston acted as an armed intruder, walking through the halls of WHHS with an unloaded gun, emergency responders tested the active shooter response system formulated by the Franklin County Sheriffs Office.

The system includes an alarm that, when tripped, feeds a secure, live video feed to dispatch and a mapping system that allows emergency responders to locate classrooms or hallways quicker and easier.

Preston was given four objectives to perform before reaching a designated safe room. The first time, emergency responders used the traditional approach to an active shooter situation they responded to a call and navigated the school halls blindly until they found the suspect.

The first time we did it the old-fashioned way, I made all four objectives and got in the safe room, Preston said.

The second time, the alarm was tripped and the emergency responders could watch Prestons every move over a live video feed. Additionally, dispatch connected to the public address system and described his appearance and movements.

Dispatch hijacked the PA system and Im all the sudden no longer on the offensive, Preston said.

Theyre announcing every step Im taking. Hes wearing blue jeans and a sweatshirt. I went from being on the offensive to defensive. It kind of freaks you out, even being a drill.

During the second drill, emergency responders apprehended Preston within 21 seconds.

Board member BeLinda Henson said she was impressed with the system, but she wasnt convinced it would yield the same results with 200 to 300 kids in the hallway.

Member Jennifer Grisham-Brown wondered if it would be beneficial to perform similar drills with students in the building.

Families that actually practiced fire drills got out quicker than families that just sat and went through the plan verbally, she said. In the middle of the night, they just sat and panicked. Thats what Im thinking of.

Although the system has not yet been tested with students or in an actual emergency situation, it has piqued the interest of Kentucky legislators and safety advocates across the nation.

Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton will present the system to the House Subcommittee on School Safety later this week.

Deputy Montey Chappell with the cooperation of the Sheriffs Office, began developing the system many months ago but the recent shootings at an elementary school in Connecticut emphasized the importance of security measures.

The shootings also prompted Franklin County to perform safety audits on all schools, and those audits revealed a few security concerns, Franklin County Superintendent Chrissy Jones said.

As a result of doing safety checks, we did find some exterior doors that needed to be repaired and replaced at the high schools, Jones said.

To address the problem, the Board of Education on Tuesday approved the use of $32,000 from the Capital Fund to fix the doors. Additional security cameras and buzzer systems remain on the school safety wish list for Franklin County.

The audits also caused Franklin County to brief all substitute teachers on lock-down procedures and ensure school doors are being locked at all times.

Its sickening to talk about it, and you pray it never, ever comes up around here, Preston said. But you do want to feel like youre prepared.