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Schools review security measures

Oct 13, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

There's a refreshed foundation for the safety and security of students who attend school in Fremont County.

A collaborative effort was set up Sept. 25 among school district representatives, law enforcement, school resource officers, and the Fremont County Board of Cooperative Education Services to update each other on their emergency management plans.

The partnership meeting, facilitated and hosted by BOCES, was the second one held since the first one in December 2012. Participants agreed that they had to update each other on what their school is doing to make sure students are safe and that a plan is in place in case of an undesirable, dangerous situation.

Personnel from the Fremont County Sheriff's Office, area police officers, fire district staff, school security staff, superintendents, principals, SROs, chiefs, Bureau of Indian Affairs officers and other community members discussed effective plans, possible procedures and training available for faculty.

Emergency plan

Jane Edelman, the administrative services director for BOCES, emphasized that it's critical all groups have a standardized and universal way of communicating with each other.

Fremont County Sheriff Skip Hornecker echoed her comments and provided a list of questions and terms that could be used by everyone when dealing with an active assailant.

He also suggested that the schools' emergency response plans include evacuation locations and training from groups like the Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate training program that encourages people in these unfavorable situations to fight back and not become victims.

Hornecker also recommended a parent communication system so parents become aware of what is going on at their child's school as soon as possible. He also recommended a post-action briefing system to aid students or adults with counseling or other services that can help alleviate the stresses that usually follow an incident.

Still, he added, it has to be understood that not all plans will work perfectly.

"Something's going to be missing," he said. "But you need to get a general action plan in place, and then you can see what worked and what didn't work."

He also offered attendees the help of his team in any situation.

"The good thing about this county is that we work so well together," Hornecker said.

Some challenges they face, he said, is response systems that are not updated, the increased use of cell phones and social media, and response time for schools farther away.

"I lose a lot of sleep over those schools," Hornecker said. "It brings a heavier responsibility on staff and the school."

ALICE

Attendees also received additional information on the ALICE program.

"ALICE is about survival...it's a program that moves on beyond lockdown," said Brett Johnson, an FCSO deputy and an SRO for District 6 in Pavillion.

Through the program, which is being used to train more and more students and faculty across the nation, participants learn that they may become potential targets for violence, and they must do whatever it takes to survive instead of becoming a victim.

Faculty from Arapahoe schools asked how ALICE would work for them, because their schools are surrounded by a fence. Cody Myers, SRO for District 25 in Riverton, said program staff could visit and evaluate the location and figure out a plan that could work best specifically for those students and staff.

Prepared schools

Rocky Williams from Local Emergency Preparedness briefed the group with the duties of the Type III emergency response team, discussing ways his crews could help during incidents at schools.

During the meeting, a moment was taken for updates on each school district's current crisis plan. Several school officials confirmed that they are revising their plans and are looking to improve and update the documents.

Representatives from District 1 in Lander reported that their buzzing system is in place. Employees from District 2 in Dubois said they are re-doing their crisis plan, and Pavillion school officials confirmed that they have received ALICE training. Representatives from District 21 in Ethete reported that they are developing an after-school response plan for emergencies during activities such as sporting events and other activities held when classes are not in session.

District 24 representatives from Shoshoni said they have updated the district's camera monitoring system. They also are developing protocol to cover school bus accidents, and they said maps and keys were provided to their emergency response team. Shoshoni officials said they would like to pursue ALICE training in the future.

District 38 in Arapahoe reportedly has a new buzzer system in place. Officials said they are looking for a new SRO and plan to provide some kind of training to faculty as soon as the new superintendent settles in.

Riverton school officials said they have changed their security entrances to incorporate buzzing systems, added more cameras outside the schools, and assigned specific response tasks to faculty.

Law enforcement

Also present at the meeting were officials from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and staff from the Wind River Police Department. They explained that they are targeting social media and cell phone users who use these outlets as ways to attack others.

"Facebook is our biggest enemy, then cell phones," WRPD Lt. Ted Thayer said. "We see a lot of family fights and disputes."

They added that the turnover in superintendent positions at local school districts temporarily halts plans to revise their crisis procedures. And, he added, there's interest in adding more SROs, but officials must determine who would manage those positions before hiring more officers to patrol area schools.

Chiefs from the Riverton and Lander police departments explained their changing roles in the schools. They also encouraged others to seek additional training and information and to devote all the necessary attention to the crisis plans.

Doug Walker, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Lander, commended everyone present for the work they've done at their schools -- the cooperation, the training, the mock scenarios and the determination from everyone to improve the safety of students and security at each school.

"This is our community, and there is a great atmosphere of cooperation here," Walker said.

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