MANCHESTER, N.H. —
Hoax calls claiming there were active shooters in New Hampshire schools flooded into police departments in December.
While police were able to determine that the calls were hoaxes, the day raised the question of how prepared New Hampshire schools are for a real emergency.
New Hampshire requires all public and private schools to create emergency operation plans and submit them to the state.
“It’s going to go over specific events that could potentially take place in a school, from a shelter in place to a lockdown scenario said Robert Buxton, director of Homeland Security and Emergency management. “It’s going to lay out the procedure for the school and how they do notifications internally and externally.”
Emergency operation plans at St. John Regional School in Concord were put to the test when the school found itself at the center of a hoax threat.
“Having memos of understanding with your local agency representatives is important so they know what your plan is and having a one-pager for staff, so they can brief themselves when something happens,” interim Principal Lisa Zolkos said.
Federal and state funding is available to upgrade security.
“We spend a significant amount of time and resources in assessing and planning for safety,” Steve Tucker, Laconia school superintendent, said.
The Laconia School District was awarded grants to upgrade locks in city schools. The police department also received $200,000 in funding for a technology wall.
“So, in the event of an active shooter, we can pull specific cameras up in a school and locate where that subject is probably before an officer arrives,” Laconia Police Chief Matt Canfield said.
In recent years, technology has taken on more of a role in school safety. Brandon Flanagan is the president and CEO of IN FORCE911, a developer of software that functions as a mobile panic button.
“Every second truly equals a life,” Flanagan said.
Teachers or administrators download the program to a computer, tablet or cellphone and can alert police to an emergency immediately.
“So, this is the notification that law enforcement is seeing,” Flanagan said, demonstrating the program. “You can see the name of the school here, the type of threat, which is active shooter, name of the address, name of the person sending the alert and the location of the individual.”
The app allows whoever sends the alert to have a real-time conversation with law enforcement.
“It opens up a two-way chat portal so that the teacher who has experienced this threat can communication silently with first responders, so they can let them know more detailed information pertaining to that threat,” he said.
Law enforcement officials say emergency operation plans and using the latest technology are important, but not enough. School districts and police departments team up for training so first responders are ready to answer the call.
“Certainly, having a plan and having a set procedure of how to respond, whether it’s the school aspect or our aspect, it eliminates some of the decision-making that has to take place,” Canfield said.
See full article here: https://www.wmur.com/article/hoax-calls-school-safety-plans-new-hampshire/42942996