Sheriff looks at safety plans for county schools
by Rory Doyle
Jan 17, 2013 | 1050 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In the wake of the Connecticut tragedy, schools and law enforcement agencies are rethinking their emergency and safety plans.

While nothing of Sandy Hook's magnitude has occurred locally, Bolivar County Sheriff Kelvin Williams is doing everything in his power to keep his unit and local schools equipped.

"Up until Connecticut happened we hadn't really tested or looked deeply into our schools' emergency plans," said Williams. "Our goal now is to be prepared, prevent chaos and handle situations as orderly as possible."

Williams has been meeting with superintendents and school administrators this week to offer guidance on boosting security strategies.

Emergency evacuation and lockdown plans have been at the forefront of conversations.

"We're advising schools on numerous things, but we're focusing on establishing a meeting place where students can be relocated outside of school so parents can come pick up their kids safely," said Williams.

"One of the worst things that happens in these situations is that parents get a text or get word of what's happening and they start coming to the school. This makes everything worse because now the parents are in danger and the officers have to focus on keeping the parents safe too."

As a father of schoolchildren, Williams said he would also want to rush to the school, but as a law enforcement official he knows it's better to go along with the established plan.

"You don't want to cause more disruption and confusion in a situation that's already bad," he said.

Williams is also gathering updated maps and building layouts of all the schools so the department can have knowledge of the facilities should disaster strike.

"We're working on preparing a manual of all the layouts and putting one in each deputy vehicle," said Williams.

Once Williams has met with all school officials, he and the department will likely practice mock lockdown situations at each school to offer suggestions for improvements.

Another suggestion from Williams is to install cameras and buzz-in systems at all main school entrances.

"This will make it harder for perpetrators to enter and it will give law enforcement more time to respond. It's a preventative mechanism that would allow us to mobilize in a timely manner."

While school massacres can develop in unimaginable ways, the BCSD will continue to work had at preventing casualties.

"We can't say what it's really like to respond to something like Sandy Hook since it's never happened here, but the Bolivar County Sheriff Department is trying to be as prepared as possible — be in the mindset in case something serious does happen."