Sandy Hook Attack Prompts School Safety Improvements

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KIRKWOOD, MO (KTVI)-- The deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School attack in Connecticut late last year has St. Louis area school districts taking a close look at their own security procedures and equipment.   Wednesday some seventy district administrators, university security officials and school resource police officers attended a school security seminar sponsored by Tech Electronics, a St. Louis firm that designs, installs and maintains security, fire and life safety equipment.

School security expert Paul Timm, president of RETA Security, Inc. urged schools to first review how they control access to their buildings and what their level of communication is for emergencies.  He asked, "How do we know at any given time who is in our building or no longer in our building?"  Timm said many organizations need to improve their "visitor management procedures."

His recommendations include: lock all exterior doors; bring everyone in through a main entrance; and staff should sign in visitors and ask for indentification.  Schools may now purchase visitor management software that scans an I.D. and then checks a data base for sex offenders and non-custodial parents.

Timm favors placing a school resource police officer in every school building.  "I would not like teachers to be armed."  He also urged repeated drills of "lock down" procedures even during hectic times like student arrival and dismissal.

The Kirkwood School Special Projects manager Tricia Horton said it is possible to incorporate new safety measures while doing other renovation or maintenance.  Her district is planning to move school offices to locations at the front entrance.

"We're going to make it an environment where someone, a visitor has to actually be buzzed in and the office personnel can see that person, but that person cannot enter our school building without passing through the office and being authorized to get into the rest of the school," Horton said.

Timm recommended each school create a safety committee that includes students to build a consensus over what measures to take to improve security.

Breakout sessions covered security camera operation, voice and video intercom equipment, communication equipment and how to safely use social media within schools.

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