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Safety first: Security system gets a makeover

Due to the volatile social climate in many school campuses across the United States in recent years, St. Martin’s Episcopal School has been working to upgrade its emergency security procedures. For the 2018-2019 school year, many improvements to our security system have been implemented to match the most up-to-date security technology and strategies.

“You can never have a set emergency plan,” said Junior Andrew Gary. “It’s always going to change and evolve based on what’s happening in the world.”

In 2018, the safety and security council, which has existed at St. Martin’s for many years, was revamped to address changes being made to the school’s security system. About once a month, the administrators, teachers, faculty, and students on the council discuss safety protocols, border security, and any other issues that the members bring up. Gary, a student member of the council, believes that while the administrators are the main voices during meetings, the adults value the input he can offer from a student’s perspective. Gary encourages his peers to get involved with safety procedures at our school.

“Getting more voices, getting more eyes on this issue is the best way to fix it,” Gary said.

Some of the most noticeable changes to the security system that affect students from the George Cottage to the high school include the different procedures for fire and lockdown drills that were implemented this year, according to Head of Lower School Ford Dieth, who leads the security council.

“I really appreciate the students’ willingness and hard work to go through with these new (drills), even though sometimes they’re repetitive or redundant,” Dieth said.

In addition, St. Martin’s has tightened the borders of the campus and installed security cameras across the school, according to Dieth. After 8:00 a.m., visitors not only have to enter on the Green Acres side of campus because the gates on Haring Road are kept locked, but they are also required to sign in at the Business Office. In case of an emergency, administrators need to be aware of who is on campus in order to carry out security procedures more effectively. This is a stark departure from the rules (or lack thereof) in the past, according to Dieth, who is also an alumnus of St. Martin’s.

“When I went to school here, we didn’t really even have fences,” Dieth said. “We could just walk up anywhere we wanted. It’s different now.”

The administrators are not the only ones involved in the restructuring of the security system. The faculty received more safety training over the summer to match the new policies, according to Upper School Chaplain Jeff Millican. Training for teachers is ongoing, and currently, they are being trained to use Crisis Go, an app designed for administrative communication during safety drills and emergencies.

Finally, Head of School Merry Sorrells made the decision to bring in outside consultants to ensure that St. Martin’s has the most up-to-date school safety procedures, according to Dieth. Employees of Strategic Response Group (SRG), a private consulting firm specializing in both physical and electronic security, have been working closely with St. Martin’s as it improves its security system and are present on campus every Monday to answer any questions teachers, faculty, and students may have about school safety.

“It’s a pretty experienced company with a lot of ex-military people who have experience in the field,” Gary said. “They work with other schools, not just St. Martin’s, but Mr. Fernandez (a former employee of SRG) has told me that we’re probably the most advanced in terms of preparedness.”

Dieth, who acts as one of the intermediaries between SRG and St. Martin’s, believes that having SRG’s extensive knowledge of security systems has allowed St. Martin’s to improve its safety procedures significantly in a relatively short amount of time.

“They have helped us bring our game up considerably,” Dieth said. “Whatever any institution can do to increase safety and security and regulate who goes on and off campus is a good thing. I would do anything to keep our kids safe.”

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