In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting last week, Adkins said he felt the meeting was needed to coordinate the efforts of the school board and area police.
“It is time to get on the same page in terms of exactly what individual school safety plans are and what our plans are as a whole,” Adkins said. “Heaven forbid we ever need to use these plans, but we need to be as prepared as we possibly can if something were to happen.”
Adkins said he had already been in talks with the Walker County Sheriff’s Office regarding school safety before Friday’s tragedy in Connecticut, but he said new safety procedures are now being expediated.
Walker County Sheriff John Mark Tirey said his office has been forming a critical response team in recent months that will respond in emergency situations, but he said the first response in any school emergency would be the municipal police department where a school is located.
“If an incident like this were to happen in our county, it is going to take all of us working together,” Tirey said. “That’s why I felt like this meeting was a good idea.”
Several issues were discussed during the meeting, including improving communication between schools and police departments.
Sumiton officials said the city has given walkie talkies to Sumiton Elementary/Middle School and Sumiton Christian School that can immediately reach first responders.
“We did that a couple of years ago. We felt like giving the school’s the ability to communicate with us would give us an advantage if anything bad was to happen,” said Sumiton Fire Chief David Waid, who is also a Sumiton police officer. “With the radios, they can immediately talk with us and let us know what is happening.”
Adkins said he thought putting communication radios of some sort in each school would be a good idea.
“That’s something we need to look into,” he said.
The Walker County Sheriff’s Office will be going over each school’s emergency plans in the coming weeks.
The sheriff’s office and the school board will also be taking part in Virtual Alabama, which will give authorities the ability to see virtual 3D maps of each school and to tap into all cameras within schools. Adkins said that process will begin immediately.
Law enforcement officials at the meeting were in agreement that school staff members need training on what information is needed by police in an emergency situation. The sheriff’s office, in conjunction with other area law enforcement agencies, will hold a training seminar at the county BOE office in Jasper on Jan. 9-10 from 8 a.m. until noon.
“We think this training is going to be helpful to everyone involved,” Tirey said. “It will open up communication between law enforcement and the schools, and it will give us a chance to be specific about things we would need to know if something like a shooting was to happen.”
Adkins said the cooperation between police and the school system will not end there.
“They will be visiting each of our schools and getting more familiar with them,” he said. “They will go over each plan.”
Adkins also offered two former school locations as tactical training facilities.
“If you need training in a school setting, Townley School and Farmstead School are available,” he said.
Jasper Police Chief Connie Cooner Rowe said federal officials will be performing risk assessments on each school in Jasper, and she added assessments could also be performed in county schools.
Rowe attended the meeting with school officials before speaking on school safety to members of the Jasper City Council.
“The statistical odds of something happening in our area are extremely low, but it is a possibility,” she told council members. “We want to be as prepared as possible for any given situation.”