Limestone County Schools personnel start Safe Defend training this week

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Patty Carson hopes she will never have to implement what she learned Thursday in Limestone County. She and other Limestone County Schools personnel learned how to react to an active shooter in the schools using a new system called Safe Defend.

The system includes 600 finger-print activated lock boxes that contain pepper spray, a telescoping wand, a strobe flashlight and various first-aid items, such as a tourniquet. These items are not intended to prepare school personnel to attack an active shooter but to prevent them from entering their classroom to harm students or the teacher until law enforcement arrive on scene.

When a teacher activates the Safe Defend box, not only does every teacher and administrator get notified by text and email of an active shooter emergency, the system also alerts law enforcement and even tells them where in the building the box was activated. That tells other teachers whether they can try to escape with their students or stay put. It also tells law enforcement where in the building the shooting began.

“I hope and pray we never have to use it, but we have to protect the children,” said Carson, a psychologist serving students at Creekside Elementary School, East Limestone High School, the Central Office and Tanner High School. She said she and other school personnel are not afraid that training for an active-shooter situation will make the school environment more unsafe.

“It makes us feel better prepared. It makes me feel a lot better.”

Limestone County Schools Superintendent Dr. Thomas Sisk said the schools paid a one-time cost of $400,000 for the 600 boxes, which works out to about $35 per person considering there are 9,000 students and 1,000 personnel. He believes it is the best safety system available today because it is different than cameras, locks or other methods. Jeff Green, a former Kansas school principal, worked with law enforcement and other professionals to create Safe Defend Personnel Protection and Shelter in Place Systems for schools, hospitals, government buildings and corporate offices. The mass shooting at the elementary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, forced him to see that most schools do not have an adequate safety plan.

“The typical approach of locking an intruder out, hiding and hoping has proven ineffective time and time again,” he said.

Training in the Limestone County Schools will continue Jan. 3 and 4, 2016.

Sisk said he learned about Safe Defend while attending a national conference.

“This stands out because it integrates communication with first response and empowering everybody to be a first responder.”

USD 341 prepares classrooms for potential attacks with SafeDefense System

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There hasn’t been a school shooting in Kansas since 1985, but other states haven’t been as fortunate.

USD 341 is taking the proactive approach by installing SafeDefense Safety Systems in all of its schools.

“No matter how great the control access systems are, no matter how great the camera systems are, if we let that bad guy into the school we need a way to be able to protect ourselves,” SafeDefense CEO Jeff Green said.

Green gave an active shooter demonstration at Oskaloosa School District on Thursday.

Thanks to SafeDefend, teachers can protect their classrooms with just the touch of a finger — and it doesn’t involve a trigger.

By scanning their finger on the SafeDefend box, teachers automatically alert emergency responders and unlock their SafeDefend system

“God forbid if they actually have to protect themselves, we give them some tools as well as some very effective training to create a situation where they can protect themselves and their students ,” explained Green.

The SafeDefend kit includes non-lethal weapons such as pepper spray, high-intensity strobe lights, trauma packs and an expandable baton with a window break.

The SafeDefend system provides a non-lethal defense against attackers because more than often they are a familiar face.

“Eighty-four percent of the threats to our schools, we are going to let through that front door. It’s going to be a student, it’s going to be a parent, it’s going to somebody associated with someone at school,” said Green.

USD 341 superintendent Jon Pfau plans to have each classroom equipped with a SafeDefend Safety System by January. Pfau says they are cost efficient and thinks most school districts would be able to fit them in their budgets.

“We’re very excited to put the SafeDefend system in our school district. It checks alot of the boxes that we need to become a protected school,” said Pfau.

Local authorities are on board with the system. Jefferson County Sherrif Jeff Herrig thinks schools should designate drills to prepare for an active shooter.