Our Lady of Peace School Steps Up Safety

WHEELING — Our Lady of Peace School in Wheeling is stepping up school safety and security efforts, because “keeping children safe while they are in our care is a top priority,” Principal Maureen Kerr said.
“We are dedicated to consistent improvement initiatives in our safety and security procedures. We take school safety and emergency preparedness seriously,” she said.
As proof, earlier this fall, the school installed a one-of-a-kind lockdown panic system connected to local law enforcement. The main panic button is located in the school office, but the system can also be activated from administrators’ mobile devices or from strategically located wireless panic buttons around the school. One touch of the button launches a series of safety measures simultaneously.
Once the button is pressed and the system is activated, an alarm tone sounds over the intercom and blue strobe lights activate in the corridors. Police are automatically dispatched, and text alerts are sent to the safety team. All exterior and interior doors instantly lock and general access is disabled. During a lockdown, students and staff would be able to exit the building if necessary, and first responders would be able to enter. These first responders can also access a network of over 30 high-definition surveillance cameras and floorplans remotely to assess the situation before intervention.
“The theory behind the one-touch system is that you can launch a whole lockdown quickly and focus more on securing your students and staff,” said Trey Dunlevy of Yahn Electric Company, the firm that designed and installed the system. “Panic can slow reaction time. This allows administrators to act without hesitation or the worry forgetting something vital. It’s as simple as push and run.”
The new panic system integrates seamlessly with the school’s existing security components of card access control, video surveillance, intercoms, and door alarms, but these electronic security items are just part of the school’s safety improvement plan.
Our Lady of Peace has conducted Active Shooter Drills with the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department. The drills are intense and informative not only to prepare the staff, but also to give first responders three days to perform mock crisis/emergency drills and become very familiar to the inside and outside of the building. The school has also worked with the State Fire Marshal and local fire departments to improve its preparedness and response to potential incidents.
“As we truly thank God that our area has not had the terror of Parkland, Sandy Hook and Columbine, we realize that no one is immune. We have these safety measures currently in place designed to safeguard students, and we ultimately believe that affects positive student learning in the classroom,” Kerr said.