BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — After the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, many school systems started to take a closer look at their own security preparations.
As horrific as the tragedy was at Sandy Hook, where 20 children and six staff members were fatally shot, it could have been much worse, officials said. Sandy Hook teachers and staff were praised for their heroic actions, their quick reactions and for being prepared.
In Salem, school officials admitted they had not conducted lockdown drills at most schools, although plans, they said, were underway.
Since December, a lot has changed.
Under the leadership of Patrolman Mike Fecteau, the school resource officer, almost every public school has held a drill where teachers locked doors and ushered students to a secure area or corner of the room where they could not be seen.
“We did it at Collins Middle School even during construction,” Fecteau said.
The only exception is Salem Academy Charter School, and that drill has been scheduled following school vacation week, the officer said.
Fecteau is also making plans to conduct drills at The Phoenix School and other private schools.
Starting next fall, schools will hold evacuation drills along with lockdown drills, Fecteau said. All schools, he said, have evacuation plans.
There are plans to equip a staff member in every school with a police radio that could be used to contact the station in the event of an emergency.
The public schools also have updated and tested door buzzers, security cameras and office monitors, according to Superintendent Stephen Russell.
In a few weeks, Russell expects to have estimates for the installation of panic buttons in each school that automatically dial police headquarters. In addition, the schools have requested $125,000 in further security upgrades in next year’s city capital improvement plan.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.