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CDs Help Schools Build Safety Web Sites

The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office is offering school districts and businesses some free help in bolstering security in their buildings.

The agency is distributing a guide for creating building safety plans that police and firefighters can access on Web sites during an emergency.

“Tragedies like the ones at Columbine, the Amish School in Lancaster (in Nickel Mines) and at Virginia Tech University have shaken the core of our society,” Attorney General Tom Corbett said in a news release.

“We need to be proactive in using lessons learned from prior instances of school violence and emergencies to safeguard our schools and students.”

The how-to School Safety Project CD-ROM is based on a computer program developed in-house by Susquenita School District.

Similar commercial systems are available, and about half the public school districts in Lancaster County use them, according to an official with a Lancaster-based company that markets the systems.

Susquenita’s program was developed mainly by community volunteers over the past year at a cost of about $1,000, superintendent Dan Sheats said.

“If a small district such as Susquenita can do something like this, then virtually any other school district can do this,” Sheats said of his 2,200-student district, located just north of Harrisburg.

Susquenita’s safety system, which can be accessed with a password on a secure Web site, contains aerial views and floor plans of all its schools and school access roads, as well as photographs of corridors, offices and classrooms.

Emergency responders can click on a photo to see a real-time view of a classroom or office through school security cameras.

“The police will be able to see everything that our video cameras see in the school before they enter the building,” Sheats said.

The site also includes the district’s emergency-response plan and school contacts.

The system gives police, firefighters and ambulance personnel a better sense of what they will encounter when responding to an emergency.

Sheats demonstrated the system to Corbett, who wanted to encourage other school districts and businesses to develop their own systems.

The School Safety Project CD-ROM lists the equipment and software required and includes instructions on developing a computer program.

The CD-ROM “gives districts a great opportunity to partner with law enforcement before an incident occurs,” Corbett said.

InnerLink Inc. of Lancaster has been marketing its own school safety system, called TeamPrepared, for several years, Mark Vogel, director of product marketing, said.

More than half the public school districts in Lancaster County use the system, he said, including Lancaster, Eastern Lancaster County, Solanco, Hempfield, Conestoga Valley and Elizabethtown.

School districts and businesses interested in receiving a School Safety Project CD-ROM may call (800) 525-7642 or send an e-mail to [email protected]

E-mail: [email protected]