Pateros School links security cameras to first responders

The Pateros Billygoat looks on a security camera peering over the main entrance to the school, 344 W. Beach St.

PATEROS — Following area school districts, Pateros installed an application that links its 22 security cameras to local first responders in real time.

Those agencies include the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office, Brewster Police Department, Washington State Patrol and Pateros Fire Department, said Brian Raust, maintenance, transportation and operations director for the district. Others could be added, Raust said.

“If you guys think of anybody else who needs to be on that list, we’ll give them the app,” Raust told school board members during a Feb. 26 board meeting.

Superintendent Lois Davies said the board has been considering such a system since 2009 when the school updated its security cameras.

In an emergency, “it puts everyone on the same page,” Davies said.

“(School safety) has been an ongoing, conscientious effort for many years, and it continues to be,” she said. “Our kids’ protection is our number one priority.”

The Okanogan and Brewster School Districts, too, provide local law enforcement with security camera access. Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said the department monitors Okanogan School District’s security cameras in real time from the deputies’ and detective offices, as well as its dispatch center.

“We think it is a great tool to have,” Rogers said.

The Brewster Police Department can access live security camera footage of the Brewster School District – a feature that becomes “crucial” in emergencies or criminal investigations, Police Chief Nattalie Cariker said.

“If something happens like a school shooting, we have access and can apply people as needed,” Cariker said. “If there’s a threat, we can get to the threat now.”

The access, however, does not replace regular school patrols and relationships with students, the chief said.

Cariker’s department leads school emergency exercises and safety presentations at area schools, attends sporting events and school drills and instructs D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) for fifth-grade students, she said.

“The police department has contact going on throughout the year with school officials on numerous topics along with school emergencies,” she said. “I believe relationships are very important.”

During the board meeting, Raust also presented on the schools’ emergency plan, lockdown system, radios and staff badges.

“This past week, in light of everything that’s been going on, Ms. Davies and Mr. (Principal Mike) Hull and myself met a couple of times, reviewed our emergency management plan,” Raust said. “We do have a bible that we’ve gone through with FEMA – an extensive plan and policy, which is a couple hundred pages long.”

Administrators boiled that “bible” down to a flipchart, placed in each classroom for monthly drills, he said. Simplicity prevents uncertainty, Raust said.

“In the unlikely event that something happens, one of the first things that happens is all the panic and chaos, if it gets too extensive, everybody just gets confused,” Raust said. “We’re really trying to keep people focused on the plan itself.”

All school employees, from grounds maintenance subcontractors to administrators, will now wear badges with emergency cheat sheets on the backside, Raust said.

The instructions include three steps each for an evacuation and lockdown, he said.

“Our badges mean everything in the event of an emergency,” he said. “When first responders are sweeping the building, they see the badge and know you’re school personnel. If you don’t, you’re on the ground. Your hands are spread.”

Communication, he said, represents the greatest security measure.

To that end, Raust said all teachers will install a radio app on their cell phones.

“Right now, in the event of an emergency, the core group of security and administrative folks here, we all have radios. But if we’re not sitting at our desk, we don’t have our radios on us,” Raust said. “We all have our cell phones on us 24/7. That will open up communication lines.”

As for the district's buildings, Raust said Pateros School employees should ensure secondary entrances and exists remain locked at all times during school hours.

“Everybody who has lived here, they know the school in and out,” Raust said. “That’s a good thing, and it’s a bad thing.”

If a “full-fledge” lockdown were needed, a panic button could lock the entire main building, he said. All classrooms have intercom access, locks and a connection to the same security system, Raust said.

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