Delaware County Sheriff Russ Martin briefed Olentangy school board members last week on new police procedures to keep local schools safe.
At a board meeting Wednesday, Feb. 13, Martin told board members that deputies, including the district's school resources officers, have completed training in a new system called ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evade) which instructs police on how to respond to active threats such as a gunman.
Also at the meeting, Martin invited residents to attend a public community forum on school safety at 7 p.m. March 7 at Olentangy Liberty High School, 3584 Home Road in Powell.
It also was announced that the district has adopted a new emergency preparedness system for first responders.
Martin called the ALICE system a "paradigm shift" in emergency response procedures.
Traditional safety procedures that train students and staff to always enter "lockdown" and wait for police to arrive when a gunman or other active threat enters a building are outdated, he said.
"It's a shift in thinking about how we protect our students and staff," Martin said. "What law enforcement has seen as time has gone on is that lockdown is not always the best practice."
He added: "We constantly have to be able to change our strategies, and ALICE provides a toolbox for that."
Olentangy hasn't yet adopted the program. Martin said school staff and administrators could begin training in the next few weeks if the school board gives the go-ahead.
The district's three school resource officers would lead the training.
Martin didn't elaborate on the specifics of the program; Olentangy officials keep school safety procedures close to the vest.
But in the city of Delaware, where local police recently adopted the system, Police Chief Bruce Pijianowski said it gives students and school staff the option of fleeing when faced with a threat, under certain circumstances, instead of entering lockdown.
The specifics of Olentangy's lockdown procedure also aren't released to the public as a safety precaution. Typically, the procedures direct teachers and students to lock classroom doors, move clear of doors and windows and remain quiet until help arrives.
Currently, Olentangy schools are prepared to enter three different levels of lockdown depending on the nature of the threat, and the procedure is practiced several times each year, said district Safety Coordinator Jennifer Iceman.
Martin will sit on a panel during the March 7 forum and take questions alongside Superintendent Wade Lucas and Delaware County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board Executive Director Steve Hedge.
"We look forward to being there and talking more specifically about best practices being applied across the country in regards to school safety," Martin said.
Also at the Feb. 13 meeting, the board heard a presentation on NaviGate Prepared, the district's new emergency information system.
A representative from Lauren Innovations told board members the system provides vital information to officers in case of emergencies ranging from school shootings to fires and natural disasters.
The system could prep officers and emergency officials en route to a school building by providing information such as a 3-D layout of a specific classroom or a live video feed of hallways via security cameras.
"First responders can see what the room looks like when it's not full of smoke and fire. They can know what the fixtures are and how to navigate their way through the location," said Thom Jones of Lauren Innovations.
He said the system is always up-to-date and accessible even without Internet access.