From left (behind Superintendent Jan Harris) are Pat Henley and Lee Haston of South Western Communication; James Fahrney, DCHS principal; Alex Case, Dade EMS director; Sheriff Ray Cross, Trenton Police Chief Christy Smith; and Josh Ingle, Davis School principal and system security director.
Dade Schools Superintendent Jan Harris called a press conference this morning to introduce the school system's new "incident management system," a reengineered security plan that integrates modern technology to reduce response time drastically in an emergency. With the new technology, she said, teachers will be able to alert school administration as well as local law enforcement and emergency management authorities of a crisis by pushing one button; or, alternatively, signal that their classrooms are secured in a lockdown situation also with one touch.
Present at the ceremony were not only school officials and representatives of the technology consultant company that installed the system, South Western Communications, but local law enforcement and EMS leaders. Josh Ingle, principal of Davis Elementary and the school system's designated security director, said that the schools and tech company had been working with the officials since January to implement the enhanced system. "This is one of the biggest areas that we have to protect," Alex Case, Dade's EMS director, said of the schools.
Pat Henley demonstrates how classrooms or common rooms change color when teachers signal their rooms are safe.
The new IM system integrates Seilox CLASS (Crisis Lockdown Alert Status System), a crisis management system, with Telecenter, which deals in school communications. The combined operation will streamline emergency response using everything from security maps that switch classrooms' colors when teachers signal alerts or all-clears to text and email alerts to administrators, school resource officers and first responders. EMS Director Alex Case said the system can be used in event of a weather emergency such as a tornado as well as in security lockdowns, and that
teachers and students have been trained how to use it. "We drill tremendously," he said.
Dade County High School Principal James Fahrney added that the new system allows school administrators not only to announce emergencies but to change class ending and assembly announcements quickly and creatively in non-emergency situations--such as adding music during class changes--when formerly the whole bell system would have to reprogrammed. "It also allows us to communicate better with our students," he said.
"It is impossible to place a dollar amount on the safety of our children," said Dr. Harris. But the price tag of the new incident management system is $160,211, and Dr. H said that whole sum had been covered by a COPS (Community Oriented Policing) grant written by local hero Maj. Tommy Bradford, the sheriff's office second-in-command who lost a leg in August during a high-speed police chase. The super thanked Bradford as well as Sheriff Ray Cross and Trenton Police Chief Christy Smith (pictured at right), not just for their help with the new system but for their cooperation in providing SROs for all four Dade schools.
Dr. Harris said more SRO presence had emerged as no. 1 on parents' wish list when she met with them last spring in the aftermath of horrific school shootings in other states. Dade High had experienced around the same time a less serious incident in which two boys were arrested after one brought an unloaded gun to class to sell to the other. No intended harm to others was charged or suspected in that case, but given mass killings across the nation, parents, school administrators and law enforcement in Dade as elsewhere seem these days to perceive a greater need for heightened security.