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Officials moving forward with school security measures

Published 5:05pm Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Officials said local schools are one step closer to having enhanced security measures in place that will protect students and faculty in several different emergency scenarios.

This past week, school and law enforcement officials met with representatives from The Protection Institute, LLC, which is a full-service protection, safety and security solutions company based in Charleston, S.C., that offers customizable safety consulting and training services for organizations and businesses.

Franklin County Sheriff Shannon Oliver said PI CEO and founder Patrick Sergott and PI vice-president Steve Stovall took a tour of all county schools this past week in order to make assessments on their current security measures.

Oliver said those assessments will help the company form specialized security plans to strengthen and enhance school security in all county schools.

“We took Mr. Sergott and Mr. Stovall to the schools in the county school system because most of them are considered to be rural schools that aren’t close to a law enforcement agency,” Oliver said.

“They needed to get an idea of what security measures are already in place and how we could strengthen security at these schools.”

Oliver, Franklin County Schools Superintendent Gary Williams, and Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow first met with PI company representatives via video conference on Jan. 3 to discuss the company’s potential involvement in new school security plans.

Williams said the county school system is looking at implementing the PI’s trademarked Total Protection Formula (TPF) program as a way to move forward with heightened security measures in the county school that were made possible through the school safety bill sponsored by Morrow and passed in the 2013 legislative session.

According to the bill, which was signed into law as Act 2013-268, former and current school personnel, as well as community volunteers, can be trained as reserve sheriff’s deputies or police reserves and would have the authority to act as security forces on school campuses in the event that an intruder comes on the school’s campus with the intent to harm students or employees.

The bill stipulates that the training of any school security force would be handled by local law enforcement, which, in the case of the county schools, falls under the responsibility of Sheriff Shannon Oliver.

“The biggest concern for me when this bill was passed was making sure we found a way to provide comprehensive and adequate training for anyone who was willing to be part of a school security force,” Oliver said.

“Since Rep. Morrow’s bill was passed, we have been looking for options to help us provide this type of training, and after listening to what The Protection Institute can offer, it sounds like this would be a great program for us to work with in the county schools where there isn’t a school resource officer.”

Sergott said during the informational meeting he believed it was more important to invest in resources and training than for school officials to spend copious amounts of money on equipment like metal detectors and camera systems.

“Buying equipment to provide for a school’s safety is important,” Sergott said, “but you can have the most expensive equipment in the world, and lots of it, but as we saw with Sandy Hook, that won’t always be enough.

“Having trained personnel is what we really need, and that’s what we can help Franklin County Schools provide.”

After visiting all of the county schools this past week, Oliver said the next step is for the company to create specialized safety plans for each school based on their initial assessments – a process that can take several weeks.

Sergott said once they create a safety plan for each school, they have training sessions available that would make sure each staff member at the school knew and understood what protocol should be taken in each situation.

“The thing I am the most impressed with about this program is that it offers a way for every single staff member to be trained on what to do in not just an intruder situation, but it other emergency situations like a fire or severe weather,” Williams said.

“This program helps each staff member understand the protocol for these situations, whether they are part of an actual school security force or not. It gets everyone on the same page, which allows for better communication – something that is vital in any situation like that.”

And Oliver said the PI representatives would also be able to help with weapons training if a school had individuals who were willing and capable of being part of a school security force, something Morrow said was crucial.

“When this bill was first presented, many people had the misconception that I was trying to go in and just arm all the teachers, which is absolutely not the case,” Morrow said.

“Anyone who is part of a security force would have to be approved by Sheriff Oliver and would have to go through specific training. Up until this point, we have been looking for a way to administer that training, and I think The Protection Institute offers a great option for all types of training.”

Since the county school system doesn’t have the funding available to implement this program on their own, Morrow said they would be pursuing several different grant options that would provide the necessary resources to get the TPF up and running in Franklin County.

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