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It pays to stay on guard

No one likes to think it’s possible that tragedies like the one that took so many young lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School could ever happen here, but in a rapidly changing world that constantly shocks and saddens us with its brutality, we realize we must be on guard.

That’s why it’s reassuring to learn that Denton first responders have been working to make sure lessons learned from Sandy Hook and other incidents are used to help safeguard local schools.

Denton Police Chief Lee Howell and Bill Knight, the Denton school district’s environmental safety manager, recently told members of the school board and the City Council that training exercises and campus lockdowns — mock and actual — have helped the Denton school district examine and improve security at its campuses.

Knight told city and school leaders that the training exercises anticipated real-life situations. Participants have to answer questions like “who’s going to call 911?” and “who’s going to do the lockdown,” Knight said, and planners add unexpected elements to challenge campus leaders in ways that mimic a real emergency.

Exercises and mock lockdowns are planned throughout the district, Knight said, adding that it would take some time to get all the training finished.

Howell said a mock lockdown and recent lockdowns at Denton High School and Lee Elementary School (both in response to a potential threat that did not materialize) brought valuable lessons.

Official are not only learning from such experiences, Howell said, but they are also addressing communication issues to help improve security. For example, the department has begun to take advantage of added features in Tip411 that allows it to send texts to groups, he said. If one campus were on lockdown, Tip411 could be used to send a text to the campus leadership of a nearby school, he added.

Howell said a recent increase in campus patrol officers — in addition to six police officers already assigned to various Denton campuses — helped bring fresh eyes to small problems that could be easy to overlook.

Howell said a recent trial to outfit the Ryan High School resource officer with a tablet computer is a good idea that the department would like to expand — it has helped the officer stay mobile and still be able to pull up the school cameras and other online resources.

Our public safety officers and school staff members have a difficult job, and they deserve our encouragement and support. We appreciate the work that has been done in recent weeks to build on safeguards already in place at local schools — security measures for our children must always be a top priority.

By working together, we can guard against complacency and keep the alert level high.

We hope trouble never strikes, but experience provides ample proof that it pays to be prepared.



A letter to the editor published on March 2 incorrectly spelled the name of Eric Mach, a regular contributor to the letters column.