MALONE — Franklin County 911 dispatchers now monitor video feeds from some school districts to aid response to an armed intruder or other emergency.
District Attorney Derek Champagne spearheaded the idea following the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut to ensure local schools and law-enforcement agencies are prepared.
He created a checklist to systematically evaluate each school and its safety plans and see that any upgrades cost as little as possible.
The list included review of the physical layout of all school buildings, their camera systems and how the video feed could be blended into the 911 system.
Each school identified which in-house personnel or others close by could potentially be the first-responder to a situation.
For example, U.S. Border Protection could be first-responder to an incident at Chateaugay Central School, the DA said, and County Courthouse personnel may be closer to the Malone Middle School and could get there faster than State Police.
Champagne said those people would also be trained on the particular school’s layout, “so if an intruder is in the cafeteria, they know where to go.”
He prompted schools to review their safety plans and procedures and offered any special training they might need.
Bill Ritchie, an investigator in the DA’s Office who is in charge of law-enforcement response and school-staff training, said that if an incident occurs, “the staff won’t be seeing the typical law-enforcement response because it’s not a typical situation.
“I train them on how law enforcement will respond. They won’t see the friendly police officer who says ‘yes, sir’, ‘yes, ma’am,’ and they have to be prepared for that.”
In the past, Champagne said, if an incident occurred, police would respond and set up a tactical perimeter, and the hostage negotiator would be called in, “but those days are over. Now, it’s search-and-destroy. Identify the target and eliminate it, or do what it takes to disable the target.