New systems speed police arrival, response time to school incidents

The South Kitsap School District is one of 80 school districts in the state that was awarded part of nearly $7 million from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to help them install emergency response systems.

The 16-school district was awarded $35,660 last month. The new systems will decrease the time it takes for police and other first responders to arrive and react to incidents at schools.

District officials are grateful for the funding.

“We are committed to the safety and security of our students and staff as a number one priority,” said SKSD Superintendent Michelle Reid. “We appreciate the state providing some support for this important issue.”

“I am thankful that the state has made funds available for districts to utilize technology to improve student safety,” said Tom O’Brien, director of facilities and operations.

O’Brien said the school district uses Mountain Alarm for burglar and fire monitoring.

“We came up with a concept that will allow us to use that system — to build upon it — to create an emergency response program for people within the buildings,” O’Brien said.

He said “key people” will have a device to activate the alarm to Mountain Alarm.

“It will explain to the monitor that we have a duress signal coming from a certain school,” O’Brien said. “They will even know whose monitor it was.”

He said the district also has met with representatives from the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, Port Orchard Police Department, Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management and CenCom to develop plan.

School officials are reticent to provide specifics because of safety concerns.

“The idea is it be absolutely unknown — unnoticed — by that person,” he added.

The grants were the result of Senate Bill 5197, which passed in 2013. The intent of the bill was to encourage school districts to develop new emergency response systems using “evolving technology.”

Districts had until March 17 to apply.

“Student safety is a top priority,” said State Superintendent Randy Dorn. “We’ve all seen school tragedies play out across the country. While these projects won’t eliminate safety risks at our schools, they will help us be better prepared. Many of the emergency response systems funded by these grants are first-of-their-kind.”

OSPI will work with districts to install the emergency response systems funded by the grants.

“Pretty much, it’s going to be fully funded — or very close to fully funded — by the state,” said O’Brien. “We’re going through some testing right now. We want to make sure we buy the right activator.”

— Chris Chancellor contributed to this report


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