In the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, the RISD School Board’s annual retreat held at Bitter Lake, Thursday, placed school safety and security as top priority. Director of Support Services Joe Baca gave an assessment of the district’s present security. Measures discussed by the board included everything from possible new construction to personnel procedures. Another priority was consistency among schools.
The proposed safety plan would cover potential security matters and other risks to health, such as electrical safety, and mold and asbestos abatement.
Board members asked if changing the locks throughout the school district might be needed. Baca said that new locks would not be necessary, but emphasized that they must be used. He said when security checks were made, school officials often discovered doors propped open.
Sean Benedict, maintenance coordinator, said that all schools have safety glass or tempered glass by code, but suggested that schools consider adding a film that would render them bullet resistant. Chaves County Sheriff Office Sgt. Mike Herrington recommended the reception area be glassed in.
Baca said a great deal could be accomplished with training on lockdown procedures and awareness. “Unless you get clear direction, you stay put.”
Kevin Dillon, construction manager, noted that RISD is further ahead in implementing a safety plan and active shooter program than any other school system in the state.
The morning session ended with a two-hour presentation from the Sheriff’s Office. Herrington began the program with dispatch tapes from other notable incidents, including Columbine.
He estimated that response time of two minutes before all law enforcement agencies arrived at the scene. “We will not wait outside the building as they did at Columbine. The first officer on the scene will be the first officer in the building. Our job is to locate and isolate…the subject.”
The goal of the Active Killer Program is survival of both teachers and students. Herrington recommended consistency in training and continued monthly lockdown drills, rather than the one drill per year as required by law, until the school lockdown procedures became as firmly ingrained as fire drills.
He also attempted to dispel certain myths that an active killer meant certain death. “Many people survive shootings.”
Herrington said past shootings did not spring from moments of blind rage, but were planned and prepared events. He said the schools now have a plan in place and a training program.
The programs and drills presented by local law enforcement have been in place since October 2012. The aim is not to instill fear but to prepare and to reassure both teachers and students. “Every drill at the schools ends on a positive note. … We have kids clap for themselves and clap for the teachers,” Herrington said.
The programs designed for the schools are also appropriate for businesses. Anyone who would like more information about the Active Killer Program should contact the Sheriff’s Office 624-6500 and ask for Sgt. Herrington.