Local school districts receive money for emergency response systems

lpemberton@theolympian.comMay 22, 2014 

Thurston County SWAT commander Lt. John Price keeps watch as officers clear classrooms at Rainier Middle School during a mock threat drill and demonstration of the School Alert application on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013. Several local school districts are installing the School ALERT system with state grants.

TONY OVERMAN — Staff photographer

With an eye to school shootings and other tragedies, the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction allocated about $6.65 million this week to install emergency response systems in 80 school districts.

Several Thurston County districts were among those that got money for automatic door locks, video surveillance systems and other safety upgrades.

“Student safety is a top priority,” state Superintendent Randy Dorn said in a news release. “We’ve all seen school tragedies play out across the country. While these projects won’t eliminate safety risks at our schools, they will help us be better prepared.”

At least three of the districts said they will use the money to install a system known as School ALERT, for Active Lockdown and Emergency Response Technology. The system, which is being piloted in the Rainier School District, allows school staff to initiate a lockdown with an authorized smart phone, tablet or desktop computer.

“Many of the emergency response systems funded by these grants are first-of-their-kind.” Dorn said.

Among the local plans:

  • North Thurston Public Schools in Lacey received $73,500 for safety projects at its 21 schools. Officials are planning several security upgrades, including automatic door locks, video surveillance systems and adoption of the ALERT system.
  • Olympia School District received $65,600 for projects at its 19 schools. The money will be used to enhance the district’s Rapid Responder system, according to district spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet. She said the system includes “important information like site plans for our schools, where to find utility shutoffs, evacuation routes, staging area locations, emergency response plans, lists of key staff — and their pictures, so responders know who they are — and pre-planned, tactical response plans customized to each school.”
  • Rochester received $14,000 to install the ALERT system at its four schools, said superintendent Kim Fry.
  • Tumwater received $58,176 for safety upgrades at its 12 schools. “The money will be used to install emergency response software at 12 sites to decrease the time to lock down schools and enhance communication with first responders,” said district spokeswoman Kim Howard.
  • Yelm Community Schools received $11,250 to fund safety projects at its 10 schools. The district will install in every school a police alert system that is monitored 24 hours a day, said deputy superintendent Jeff Role.
  • Griffin School District near Olympia received $3,800 to install School ALERT at its campus, according to district spokeswoman Kelli Anderson.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433

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