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KO Schools Continually Improve Safety Initiatives

With regard to recent tragedies at schools and in public locations, the Keystone Oaks School District continues to re-evaluate and improve its own safety plans.

It’s been less than a month since a fatal shooting occurred at Chardon High School, near Cleveland. Even more recently, Pittsburghers were shocked by a tragedy closer to home, when a shooter opened fire at Western Psych in Oakland.

With the severity of these events in mind, officials are working to ensure that security measures are in place constantly, and are updated constantly, to prevent a similar tragedy from happening in our own neighborhoods.

“With those two particular incidents, in Ohio the students belonged there. They went to the school. In the other, where the shooter entered, it was public area. I don’t know what anyone could have done differently,” said Keystone Oaks police officer Aaron Vanatta. “When things like that happen, we can sit back and dissect the situation.”

The school district has partnered with the police department of Dormont, Green Tree and Castle Shannon to carry out safety training exercises at the elementary schools. The district is in the process of coordinating with the Mt. Lebanon police department to hold similar drills at the middle and high schools.

Vanatta—who has been with KOSD for three years—leads annual drills at each of the district’s schools, including the middle and high school. Vanatta also is a police officer in South Strabane Township, and has training in crisis management.

Four scenarios are in place, and are practiced during drills:

  • A full lockdown, in which the students and staff are required to stay in their rooms and to remain there until instructed otherwise.
  • A perimeter lockdown, in which students and staff are permitted to move freely within the building, but their access to the building's exterior is strictly prohibited.
  • Off-site evacuations, which would require that students and staff are gathered and moved to a large auxiliary space away from their current school (typically a gymnasium or an auditorium of some sort).
  • A standard drill, which is put in place during a typical fire or police-related emergency, as well as a gas leak or electrical issue.

"We are careful to never tell anyone that what we're conducting is a drill," said Vanatta. "We just announce the critical incident and we begin our response with the hope that if something like this ever does happen here, we're as well drilled and prepared as possible."

The drills allow the district to see what works and what changes need to be made for better safety and organization.

Doors of school buildings are locked and inspected frequently, by both Vanatta and Beth Patton, the security officer at the middle school and high school. Cameras in the middle and high school buildings feed into one system, which Vanatta monitors, and he said he wants to get more cameras for the buildings.

Vanatta said he feels confident the schools are safe, but that new safety measures and features are constantly being implemented and reviewed to keep students and staff as safe as possible.

"When it comes to child safety, there's no such thing as a school district being too safe or too well prepared," he said.

JuliannaSmith March 25, 2012 at 05:32 PM
This is a rare incident which parents are not expecting this to happen. This annual drills really helps for this kind of scenarios however these are children and they easily got nervous and intend to forgot all what they have learned during their drills when these situation occurred And as mother, I make sure that my children is perfectly protected. I subscribe this application called the Panic Button Application. I find it very useful because this application is a one touch help, fast. Why? That's because this has a Safety Network which you can create like your Trusted Friend and your Family that can be alerted when the subscriber presses the Panic Button. This works on smart phones like Black Berry, i Phone and Android. They also have Response Call Center that works 24 hours a day to answer emergency calls. I'm grateful for this application because I know I can protect my children when they are away from me. For those who wants further information about this application. You can visit their website at http://safekidzone.com/ and also http://safetrec.com/

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