Sheriff looks at new safety measures

The Jackson county Sheriff’s Office is embarking on a new path that they believe will reduce both the amount of damage caused by mass shootings, but could also eliminate a good portion of those incidents.

Sheriff Mike Winters, concerned for safety due to the possibility of terrorist activity or natural disasters, has contracted with Future Concepts of San Dimas, California to create a system that they hope will greatly reduce both incidents and the magnitude of emergency situations.

Spurred by the Littleton, Co., and Sandy Hook school shootings, Winters and Wayne Colusa, Future Concepts, put their heads together to create the program that allows school administrators or others to literally push “the panic button” in the case of a school shooting. That action may well save lives and gives law enforcement a distinct advantage in knowing what they are walking into. They also save time by not having to clear certain areas where there is no activity. The belief is that every second saved is time that another person will not become a victim.

To accomplish this, installed cameras look into rooms. They then send information back to the command center at both the Sheriff’s Department and the Dispatch center. When someone hits that panic button, two things happen. The doors on the school (if that is where the emergency exists) can go into a lock-down mode which prevents a perpetrator from entering other rooms to commit more mayhem. The police automatically roll to the scene and enter where the perp is located, saving valuable time by not having to search where areas are clear. As they enter the building, the command center is in constant contact with officers, directing their every move. The command center and officers will remain in constant contact throughout the incident, effectively placing more officers at the scene than can be mustered with a short-staffed sheriff’s department.

The Panic button can only be activated by officials at the school when an incident occurs. At all other times, the command center is not connected to the school, screens are blank, and police may not “spy” on teachers, administrators or anyone else in the classroom. Only when the alarm goes out is there visual contact with the school.

The developers liken this system to a police officer walking up to a car they have stopped for a routine traffic violation. When they approach, they have no idea what awaits them inside that car. Most drivers are law abiding citizens who have made an error in judgement, but there are those who have other motives. If a police officer knew the driver had a sawed-off shotgun, they would deal with the driver and vehicle differently. That is the advantage of being able to look into classrooms and see what is currently going on.

This system is designed for any emergency situations, not just for schools. Places like banks, airport terminals, any place that might be a place where some terrorist could conceivably attack.

Like any system, the people involved need to be trained. That is accomplished with periodic training sessions, but is much better than teachers carrying pistols into classrooms on the pretext of shooting gunmen. And the more proficient in its use, the better chance there is of saving lives.

The first installment of this system was in the Shady Cove Middle School, over Memorial Day weekend. While the system is not cheap, it is far less than the cost of a safety officer who would be assigned to that campus. The system never sleeps and has no sick days, so is there 24/7, any time the need arises.

Adroit Construction of Ashland and Precision Electric of Medford have volunteered to install the system at no charge because they too feel it important to have something in place if a situation should occur.

In the case of power failure or of someone sabotaging the system, the command center is automatically alerted and the police roll.

The system has other features that have nothing to do with police, and those are features the school system programs into it. One valid reason is for medical emergencies and another being when a teacher needs to ring the office for some special help.

Both Future Concepts and the Jackson County Sheriff’s department feel this is a concept that could sweep the country and possibly save many lives in the process. For the present, the Shady Cove Middle School is the only school in the entire country that has this highly sophisticated system. Quite an honor for a small town school.


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