Here’s how some local teachers are trained to react to active shooter situations

With the increase in active shooter situations across the country, one local school district is taking precaution and preparing for the worst.

“You never know exactly what to do after Columbine happened and everyone said never run outside because they’re just waiting for you. Each school is trying to come up with their own plan of how to deal with it,” Oskaloosa High School Technology Director William Cormode, said.

William Cormode is a part of the USD 341 team that partnered up with SafeDefend– an emergency response system that mitigates threats in an active shooter situation.

“Unfortunately, with the world we live in today this type of situation has to be in every teacher and staff job description,” Superintendent John Pfau said.

Teachers were taught how to use non-lethal supplies like pepper spray, trauma packs, high beam flashlights and more. These supplies are locked in a SafeDefend box and the key is the teacher’s finger print.

“The finger print activation prevents students from being able to activate it. So we’re not going to get a false alarm, only staff and faculty can activate the system,” SafeDefend Director of Trainers Douglas Parisi said.

When the alarm is activated, law enforcement will immediately be alerted with information down to the activation location and room number. The system will also send a mass text and email to every staff member and teacher in the school and the district.

“So if you’re on the opposite side of the building in the elementary school and something happens to the high school those elementary school teachers will know to run for the exits and get out, but those teachers that may be closer to the event might decide it might be better to just hide because you wouldn’t run to the hallway in an event like that,” said Parisi.

With Safe Defend Cormode said he’s ready to face any scenario.

“We have everything we need to keep the kids safe, all the tools needed and all the training needed so I would feel perfectly fine,” Cormode said.

The Oskaloosa School District will only have boxes in the main entry areas and offices, Cormode said, but he hopes they will make their way into every classroom soon.

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Limestone County teachers learn how to use batons, pepper spray to defend students

Hundreds of Limestone County teachers this week learned the use of pepper spray, tactical batons and other tools aimed at helping them keep their students safe in a crisis.

The school district is the first in Alabama to arm its teachers and other staff members with SafeDefend, which company CEO Jeff Green describes as a comprehensive “active shooter system” that combines technology and self-defense tools to arm a school’s staff. Green and a group of local law enforcement officers were in some of the schools Monday and Tuesday to train teachers on the system.

Teachers were given fingerprint-activated safes for their classrooms that include gel pepper spray, batons, arm cuffs, a strobe light and other items they can use to deter a school shooter. The system, when activated by a teacher, sends automatic texts to the school’s main office, all teachers and staff, school resource officers, district officials and local law enforcement.

Limestone County Superintendent Tom Sisk said Tuesday that he takes students’ safety seriously. At an initial cost of $400,000 and a $10,000 annual monitoring fee, he is putting about 600 SafeDefend safes in the schools.
Truthfully, it is a system I hope we never, ever have to use. – Limestone County Superintendent Tom Sisk

“It’s the only system nationwide that I’ve found that does two things,” Sisk told a group of teachers undergoing training Tuesday at Elkmont High School. “It empowers every educator and staff member to be the one to sound the alarm. It also empowers you to take (the shooter) down.”

Sisk pointed to the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which six educators and 20 children were slain. Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach were the first two people killed in the massacre.

“At Sandy Hook, everybody trained to sound the alarm died in the first 30 seconds,” Sisk said. “Truthfully, it is a system I hope we never, ever have to use. But I want to send a clear message: Limestone County is not an easy target.”

The teachers in one classroom at Elkmont High on Tuesday jumped, startled by the sound, when Terry Zills, a criminal investigator with the Franklin County District Attorney’s Office, first demonstrated how to hit a target with a tactical baton. The goal of the weapon is to strike a shooter’s arm with it and either stop a shot from being fired or cause the gunman to drop his gun.

“We’re not talking about two students in here and they’re having a fight, so, ‘Oh, let me get my baton,'” Zills told the teachers present. “We’re talking about somebody who just killed three or four people in the hall and now he’s coming in here to kill you.”

Zills talked the group through a variety of scenarios in which a teacher could stop or slow down a shooter, including using the SafeDefend-provided strobe light to blind the shooter before using the baton and pepper spray to subdue him. He also suggested throwing chairs and desks to the floor to block the shooter’s path and explained how to break the classroom’s window and help students out to safety.

“There are a lot of little things that, in a split second, save lives,” Zills said.

The teachers paid close attention and soaked up the lessons they received, including learning how to use pepper spray. Tina Murphy, a teacher at Piney Chapel Elementary School in Athens, said she thought it was beneficial to prepare educators for potentially dangerous situations.

Her colleague, Jennifer King, agreed.

“And it’s educational, getting the information that we do about why we need (the training),” King said.

Limestone County Deputy Jason Pendergrass, the SRO assigned to Elkmont High, gave rave reviews to the SafeDefend system, particularly the automated texts that are sent out.

“This will definitely help us out a lot,” Pendergrass said. “It sends the text to let the SRO know what’s going on, but also exactly where the crisis is.”

Green, himself a former longtime school principal, said the system is a collaboration between education and law enforcement. Thus far, SafeDefend is being used by 25 school districts and businesses in six states.

None of his clients have had to use the system to stop a shooter, Green said.

“No, thank goodness,” Green said. “And we hope they never do.”