Schools prepare for the unthinkable

Published 10:32 pm Thursday, September 11, 2008

On the seventh anniversary of one of our nation’s greatest tragedies, Chilton County school officials were training to use special equipment that could prove invaluable in a time of emergency.

Each school principal, in addition to the Central Office and LeCroy Career/Tech Center, received a two-way radio similar to those used by law enforcement, emergency management and firefighters.

“It’s not a toy,” Robert Williams, a technician with J&W Communications, said during a brief training session yesterday.

“This shouldn’t be used for just talking back and forth on campus,” added Bill Collum, Chilton County EMA/Homeland Security director. “This is an emergency unit.”

The school system purchased 14 radios for $4,418.26 using a portion of a Title IV (Safe and Drug-Free Schools) grant. The amount of the purchase was the state bid price.

The primary reason for purchasing the units was to provide an alternative mode of communication for when phones could not be used. In such a scenario, the radios could keep principals in touch with E-911 dispatchers, incident commanders or other principals.

Anything from a medical or fire emergency to a bomb threat or an intruder on campus could warrant the use of radios.

If a shooter were on campus, for example, the mobile unit would allow a school administrator to stay in constant communication while moving around during the security threat.

“It’s a coincidence that we’re doing this today,” said Carol Easterling, Title IV coordinator for Safe and Drug-Free Schools. “We want our students to be safe every day.”

Principals also received large coolers for the storage of emergency supplies such as first aid, traffic cones, orange safety vests, blankets, bottled water, flashlights and related items.

Collum said a $15,000 Homeland Security grant will provide school security cameras to be distributed at the Board of Education’s discretion.

Another $1,200 will go toward handheld metal detectors at each high school, he added.

– Scott Mims can be reached at