Frisco ISD's SAFER Program a Model for Making Schools Safer

Award-winning program on the cutting edge of safety

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The emergency operations center in Frisco can monitor school cameras in case of emergency with the click of mouse.

    In view of school shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech and, of course, Newtown, Conn., a lot of parents are concerned about how safe their children are when they send them to school while administrators re-examine how they approach safety.

    Meanwhile, in North Texas, the Frisco Independent School District is in its third year under the state of the art "SAFER," or Situational Awareness For Emergency Response, program.

    While the Frisco ISD openly admits they don't have all the answers, the award-winning program is certainly cutting edge.

    It all starts in a state-of-the-art emergency operations center in the city of Frisco.  A room that loosely resembles a military operations headquarters is filled with computers and television monitors of all shapes and sizes so authorities can view streets, city buildings and of course, schools.

    Authorities have the ability, in an emergency situation, to pull up any camera at any school with the click of a mouse.

    "What we'd be able to gain from seeing this if kids were running out of the building, we'd know something was going on in the school  -- it wasn't a planned drill, there is something going on in that school," said Shaw Eft, Battalion Chief for the Frisco Fire Department.

    In 2009, the Frisco ISD, along with the police and fire departments and the districts Information Technology team, got together to figure out how to best protect their children.

    "The finished product is what you see here, we have room numbers, everything is color coordinated, we have information for the fire department, which would aid in response, we know where electrical panels are, where hose connections, things of that nature," Eft said.

    There is also information on chemicals in the school's science lab, so firefighters know what they're up against before they even arrive.

    What makes the system even more effective is that every fire truck and police car is equipped with a mobile data computer that can access the cameras and information available at the emergency operations center.

    "We can tap into the school cameras, we can see live feeds, we have still photos, and we also have cameras that cover the exterior of the schools," said Sgt. Brad Merritt, with the Frisco Police Department.

    "I don't know we have everything we need; I know we have a good start.  We can't stop something bad from happening, but we can control how prepared we are under those circumstances," said Gary Nye, Hunt Middle School principal. "When parents drop their kids off, they want their kids back as good of condition or better than when they left, so safety and security is our number one priority here at hunt middle school and I know throughout the district.  we can't do anything else in terms of educating if the kids don't feel safe and secure and are in a structured learning environment so each day that's our number one priority."

    There is no question that the SAFER program has done that for a lot of parents in Frisco.

    "This system is one of the ways that they can take action and keep the kids safe that isn't controversial; it's not adding a lot of risk ... This is one thing that can be done that shouldn't be controversial at all, that everyone can do to keep their kids safe," said Belinda Marshal, whose children attend Hunt Middle School.