Volume No. 16 Issue No. 10 October 2019  

  Emergency response system operational in D 49
  By Lindsey Harrison

     In March, the first BluePoint Alert System was installed at Sand Creek High School in El Paso County Colorado School District 49. The district’s Enhanced Security Community Advisory Team recommended this alert system (a type of the Rapid Emergency Response System) as a complement to the facility’s existing safety and security measures.
   Pedro Almeida, chief operations officer with D 49, said they formed the advisory team a little more than a year ago to bring together community representatives to discuss ways to enhance security. The discussions also focused on how well the proposed enhancements would work, the cost and how it would fit in with the district’s culture.
   “There are a lot of voices at that table to include — parents, staff, support staff, school administration, central office staff and some student representatives,” Almeida said. “We had a very strong endorsement (about BluePoint) from the community and the staff as well as the ESCAT (advisory team) itself.”
   According to BluePoint’s website, the idea for the system was, in part, because statistics show how effective fire alarms are in schools. The website cited the last fatal school fire, which was in 1958 in Chicago, Illinois, at Our Lady of the Angels School. Ninety-five people died.
   “This disaster led to many improvements in building codes and other fire safety protocols, but key among them was the predecessor to our modern fire alarm systems,” the website states. “BluePoint does for law enforcement what a fire alarm does for the fire department.”
   Dave Watson, director of safety and security for D 49, said the system not only allows for immediate notification of law enforcement when there is a crisis on the school grounds, but also sets into motion the school’s standard safety protocol.
   “The BluePoint Alert System acts as an immediate lockdown alert,” he said. “It takes the human element out of having to make an announcement to go into lockdown. Someone has to activate the system, but no one has to make that lockdown announcement.”
   When activated, the system uses both audio and visual alerts in the building, much like a fire alarm does, Watson said. It also alerts the district’s partners in law enforcement that they need to respond to that location, he said.
   “The Colorado Springs Police Department has been a part of our drills for the BluePoint system,” Watson said. “The safety resource officers are also part of the practice drills. We have to collaborate very closely with our partners in law enforcement because the alert is sent out directly to their dispatch.”
   The BluePoint system resembles the standard fire alarm handle schools have but is blue instead of red, Almeida said. As with fire alarm handles, the BluePoint handles are mounted in different locations throughout the building; however, this system also includes key fobs (the mobile device that allows one to lock and unlock a vehicle) that can be carried by a staff member so they can activate the system even from outside the school building, he said.
   “The training that comes along with this system is critical,” Almeida said. “Staff has to be trained on what this should be pulled for. Students fighting in the hallway is not something to pull this for. If any responsible person can clearly recognize a threat, they can pull it, which increases the number of eyes looking out for a threat in the school.”
   Almeida stressed that pulling the BluePoint handle as a prank would result in disciplinary actions; thus far, no false alarms have occurred.
   Since March, the BluePoint system has been installed in every district middle and high school using money from the 2016 mill levy override — funds earmarked for safety and security, Watson said.
   The system was also installed in Inspiration View Elementary School since it is a newly constructed building, Almeida said. The district will evaluate the system at IVES toward the end of the school year to determine the feasibility of installing additional systems in the other elementary schools, he said.
   Almeida said the BluePoint system is not a substitute for knowing how to handle a threat at the school; rather, it is a supplement to it. “It ties into the discipline of the execution of the safety and security procedures we have implemented in the district,” he said.
   Watson said the district is excited to have the new system installed; it means a quicker response to a potential crisis.
   “We feel very strongly that we cannot sit on our hands about security,” Almeida said. “We do not have the impression that this overcomes the need for preparedness in the schools. However, I think we are sitting in a relatively good security posture in regard to the safety measures we already have in place. We can always improve, though.”
When it is pulled, the familiar handle design of the BluePoint system alerts law enforcement in the event of a threat to the building.
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