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February 25, 2014
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New tech transforms Idaho police response to school emergencies

The new system requires school staff to wear wireless security badges connected to the district's WiFi system to communicate to police dispatchers

By Kimberlee Kruesi
The Times-News

BOISE, Idaho  A new wireless security system used in Nampa has transformed how police officers respond to school emergencies, a change more schools should look to implement, said a school resource officer to state lawmakers on Monday.

Last April, Skyview High School became the first school in the country to implement a location-based alarm system, said Nampa police Officer Brad Ford to the state Senate Education Committee.

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"Schools in general are lacking when it comes to emergency response and communication," he said.

Skyview added the new security system in the months following the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., Ford said.

The new system requires school staff to wear wireless security badges connected to the district's WiFi system to communicate to police dispatchers and school administrators.

Instead of calling 911 in an emergency, staffers can pull on the badge's lanyard to alert officers of a lockdown. They can also push a button on the badge to report a medical emergency or if they need security assistance.

The badges allow officers to know the exact location of an incident, Ford said. It's better than calling in an emergency because it allows officers to know where to enter the building instead of going in the front door unprepared.

"Unfortunately, we train officers to enter into a building and listen for sounds of chaos," Ford said. "If those things are happening, we are losing kids."

Skyview spent just under $35,000 to buy a badge for each of its staff, Ford said. The school received a discount because they were the first to use the new system. Retail value costs about $300 for each badge.

The wireless badges have paid off, Ford said, noting that the police response times have dropped from five minutes to two minutes since using the new system.

"I am totally impressed," said state Sen. Jim Patrick, R-Twin Falls. "I believe there's a huge need for this type of process."

Twin Falls School District wasn't aware of the system Skyview used, but Operation Manager Brady Dickinson said the district had discussed adding something similar.

Currently, the district is making sure all classroom doors lock as soon as possible in an emergency where a lockdown is needed, Dickinson said.

Dickinson said that in the Sandy Hook shooting report, the most injuries and deaths occurred in rooms where the doors never locked.

Dickinson said he would be open to purchasing wireless badges but added high costs have in the past prohibited the district from purchasing a new system.

The upcoming $74 million bond proposal includes $1.3 million for security improvements.

Copyright 2014 The Times-News


McClatchy-Tribune News Service

 



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