Here in Connecticut, we know all too well that no school is immune from random violence, but one town has a sophisticated system that directly links schools with police.
A lot of times, police have access to blueprints of key buildings, but this technology goes a step above.
The terror unleashed in south Florida on Wednesday brings up many emotions for everyone in Connecticut.
For Wolcott Police Chief Edward Stephens, he analyzes these situations with decades of law enforcement experience.
“I said to myself, ‘how would I handle this, how soon would we go in, is there an active shooter, is there a hostage situation,’ all that goes through your head,” Stephens said.
While SWAT and tactical teams will eventually respond, local officers are usually the first ones there during an active shooter situation.
“This is in any town, if there’s an active shooter, actively shooting, the officers on the scene, whether it’s one or five, are going in to eliminate that threat to keep our children safe,” Stephens said.
After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, that priority was stressed even more, and in Wolcott, new technology is helping first responders.
“It’s not just a noise, it’s a regular alarm, an alarm will go off,” Stephens said.
The new technology is a machine that is connected to all five schools in Wolcott. In the event of an emergency where dialing 9-1-1 isn’t the best option, a silent alarm can be triggered.
“There’s several in each school, where the administrators know where they are,” Stephens said.
Once it’s pushed, dispatchers at the station hear the alarm and can immediately tap into the dozens of cameras inside the school, while officers race there.
Using the high school as an example, Chief Stephens showed Channel 3 how movements can be tracked.
“See, right in this hallway here, we can see what’s going on there. Let’s say there was nothing and people were running, we would check each one,” Stephens said while demonstrating how it works.
Dispatch acts like the “eye in the sky,” directing officers to certain locations, but if officers on scene want to pull up specific cameras, they can do that too, as the network is tied to their iPads.
“If they get to the scene and they want to know which hallway, they can bring it up, look and pop it up on the screen also,” Stephens said.
In Wolcott, the technology is a good safeguard, but Chief Stephens says vigilance is the key.
Watchful staff members and teachers can cut off a potential threat well before something happens by simply communicating with students and keeping an eye on their surroundings.
“If you notice something wrong with a student, if you notice someone on the grounds that doesn’t belong there, if you notice someone in the parking lot, they know to notify the police right away,” Stephens said.
It is important to note that while these cameras are in place, they’re not used to spy. Police say they’re only used in emergency situations, most commonly when there are calls for suspicious people near school grounds.
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