County makes smarter CHOICES for school safety

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Tulare County Office of Education’s CHOICES program pilots emergency response system for active shooters at Kings River Union School
@TheSunGazette
TULARE COUNTY – Sitting in the multipurpose room at Kings River Union School last week, dozens of Tulare County school district administrators, law enforcement officers and representatives from state and federal legislators watched live images of officers engaged in an emergency response drill right outside their building. 
From time to time, one of the school’s cameras would pick up images of officers running through campus in pursuit of a man who was playing the role of an armed intruder. In addition to the images on screen, the audience in the multipurpose room heard live radio reports from officers on campus, directions from the dispatcher who was working behind the screen, and the screams of the volunteers who played the roles of the victims.
School district personnel and law enforcement officers convened at Kings River Union School to test a new emergency response system developed through Tulare County Office of Education’s (TCOE) CHOICES Programs in partnership with Danny Cordeniz of My World Studios of Tulare. CHOICES is a collection of TCOE programs designed to help students reduce risk factors such as drugs use, teen pregnancy, delinquency, violence, depression, truancy, and drop-outs. Attendees in the audience watched a pair of monitors – one with a map of the school campus and the other with thumbnail images from the school’s nearly 40 cameras. Once operational, the web-based system will enable law enforcement dispatchers to access the school’s camera system, along with maps of its campus and 360-degree images of classrooms.
Kings River Union Superintendent Sherry Martin shared that her district upgraded its camera system last year.  
“Piloting the system has been a great experience for our school because it’s made us think further about how we can improve the safety of our students in all situations,” Martin said.
Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Tim Hire and CHOICES Administrator Frank Silveira welcomed the guests to the demonstration and thanked the many law enforcement agencies that participated in the event. Hire shared that he hopes the system will soon be used by every district in Tulare County, if not California. 
“We brought you here today to see what the system is capable of doing and to solicit your comments on ways we can improve it,” he said. 
Silveira explained that the emergency response system was developed out of discussions held at CHOICES’ Crisis Prevention, Preparation, Response (CPPR) Forums which began last year.
Lt. Buddy Hirayama of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) coordinated four scenarios for attendees to watch. With system developer Danny Cordeniz at his side, TCSO dispatcher Phil Cox relayed the information he was given on the intruder and his movements through campus based on the images he saw on the system. Cox could select and enlarge individual cameras, making the job of relaying information to the officers on campus much easier.
Following the scenarios, law enforcement officers were invited to comment on the effectiveness of the system. 
“The response has been very positive,” Hire said. “Many of the officers commented that they were able to apprehend the intruder faster than they imagined because the dispatcher was able to give them precise details on his whereabouts. We look forward to taking the valuable input we received from our law enforcement partners to further develop the system for use in our schools.”