ROBERTSDALE — Baldwin County education and law enforcement officials plan improvements in school safety measures in order to prevent incidents like the shootings in Uvalde, Texas.Sheriff Huey …
ROBERTSDALE — Baldwin County education and law enforcement officials plan improvements in school safety measures in order to prevent incidents like the shootings in Uvalde, Texas.
Sheriff Huey "Hoss" Mack said Baldwin County school resource officers, educators and others have been working for several years to make campuses as safe as possible. He said the incident in Uvalde shows the need for school safety.
On May 24, 21 people, including 19 children, were killed by a gunman at Robb Elementary in Uvalde.
Mack told an audience of local elected officials and school system administrators that Baldwin County law enforcement has been making plans to deal with emergencies since before the shooting.
"I assure you that if we ever had a similar incident that we would have to handle in Baldwin County, that is the way that we would respond," Mack said. "We go to the threat. We go to the situation, and we eliminate that situation and then we start taking care of everybody."
Mack said an incident at Daphne Middle School on Thursday, Nov. 17, shows how safety measures work. In that incident, a note was found threatening that a shooting would take place at the school. No one was injured in the incident. Two students were arrested, according to reports.
"Yesterday in Daphne. I want you to realize how quick of a reaction that was, not only by the Daphne Police Department, but also by the school, by everything that happened yesterday," Mack said. "In a matter of minutes, that situation was rendered safe and that's what we have because the ultimate goal is to make sure that everybody, students, faculty, everybody is safe and goes home at the end of the day."
Mack said that in another incident in which a shot was fired at Elberta Elementary School several years ago, officers from several agencies were on the scene within minutes. No one was injured in that 2015 incident.
"Within 15 minutes, over 100 law enforcement officers were on that campus," Mack said. "Now that's a challenge, because when you have a multiple-agency response, somebody's got to be in charge. Somebody has got to address the situation."
Mack said SROs and other law enforcement will be going over procedures in upcoming months in order to have a comprehensive plan prepared by the start of the new school year in August 2023.
Marty McRae, assistant school superintendent for security, athletics and student services, said one new change is a better notification system.
Teachers and other system employees will be given badges that allow them to notify the school, administration and authorities of an emergency. The system allows educators to call for help during a situation such as a medical emergency or to initiate a lockdown of the entire school.
"We have to provide a mechanism to reduce the response time in our schools and that's what this system is going to do," McRae said.
The system is also linked to strobe lights in buildings throughout the school system. If a lockdown is initiated, the strobes will flash with a red light.
He pointed to a strobe light in the school system auditorium where the meeting was taking place.
"All our schools, all our facilities including our central office have been outfitted with this equipment," McRae said.
He said the system will reduce response time, which is a key factor in improving school safety.
"How quick can we take care of a situation? If we can't do that quickly, then people can be harmed," McRae said. "People can lose lives. We've got to take care of that situation."
McRae said school officials are also improving camera systems on all campuses. The cameras will be a uniform system that will allow administrators and law enforcement on campus and in other areas to tune in to monitor activity in all schools.