I-Team: Security stepped up with new school year
An armed gunman carefully walks down the hallway of the Dartmouth Middle School.
Although just a drill, the scenario is all too common after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, when 20 children and six adults were killed by a single shooter.
"I hope it never happens here, and that's everyone's biggest fear," said Major Lareto Guglietta of the Burrillville Police Department.
In the town, a real sense of urgency exists to take school safety up a notch, although there have been no incidents to prompt the move.
"It's embedded in the community, we started the process approximately a year a half ago," said school superintendent Dr. Frank Pallotta.
"The police department and school department got together and we actually visited each facility, checked each building, and made recommendations," added Guglietta.
And so an ambitious plan came together.
The school committee and town council were all onboard approving $5 million in safety upgrades over five years. All five Burrillville schools now have secure vestibules in the front of the buildings. Doors were changed. Keys were turned into swipe cards.
Police now have complete access, and dispatchers can look at video cameras straight from the school - in real time.
"It's a triangle in my mind. It's the community, the police and the schools working together, and the students are in the center of that triangle and the objective is to keep them safe," Pallotta said.
Late last week, Burrillville ran its own version of a shooter drill with police, fire, and emergency responders descending on the middle school, together for the first time.
Back in Dartmouth, the community recently purchased a communications system called Mutualink for about $16,000 a school. The system ties radio, video and the public address system together when seconds count. The horror of Newtown happened in approximately five minutes.
"Any smart phone can be turned into a walkie talkie direct with public safety officials," said Jeff Kelly, a Mutualink representative.
Once the panic button is pushed at the middle school, a video stream is instantly seen miles away at the police department.
"This is all about safety and this all about saving lives," said Dartmouth Police Chief Timothy Lee.
At the new $82-million Somerset-Berkley High School, enhanced security was part of the schools design.
Superintendent Thomas Lynch told NBC 10 some 200 cameras were installed both inside and out. The technology allows first responding officers to see video on laptops in their own police cruisers.
All of the upgrades are part of a new threat every community now has to measure.
"If it does happen, we're going to be as ready as we can be," Guglietta said.