Cumberland Times-News

January 10, 2013

School officials take measures to strengthen school safety

Greg Larry
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — During a review of security measures in place at area schools, Allegany County Board of Education members were told about an alert device that allows schools to receive direct messaging with 911 and other law enforcement units.

Robert Farrell, coordinator for Safety, Security and Risk Management, said during Tuesday’s public work session that all county schools are now equipped with a message beacon system known as Alertus.

With its specialization in localized emergency notification, the Alertus beacon allows 911 and other emergency services to send messages to all schools or to target a smaller number of schools.

The beacon houses a small screen that allows messages to be viewed.

“The device, usually mounted by the receptionist, let’s (the school) be notified. It has the flexibility to allow 911 to send messages to one school or all,” said Farrell.

Messages regarding anything from weather warnings to criminal threats, suspicious persons activity to crimes in progress, accidents and more can be transmitted to schools by emergency departments.

“We see that Washington and Frederick counties are now adopting this system, as well,” said Farrell.

“Alertus provides us with the ability to rapidly disseminate information to the school system. We can target one or all schools and it allows us to take proactive measures to protect the school population,” said Allegany County Director of the Department of Emergency Services Dick DeVore in an interview with the Times-News.

Other school security measures Farrell reported were: unannounced random checks of schools with the cooperation of C3I, national training courses to discuss the latest strategies, quarterly school safety committee meetings and annual emergency plans from each school.

“We also have a radio system in place to contact police in the case of power failures,” said Farrell.

Farrell also said schools are doing drills that include lock-downs and lock-ins.

“I’m also making unannounced visits to check the schools to continue to make suggestions to them,” added Farrell.

The school board also adopted new guidelines for the minimum standards required for athletic participation in regard to drug and alcohol violations.

The language regarding the drug, alcohol and tobacco standards was amended during the meeting. Previous policy only referred to possession.

“I think (the new language) more clearly defines the drug and alcohol guidelines that were in place before,” said the interim Chief Academic Officer Karen Bundy.

The new language states: to prohibit the use, abuse, sale, possession or distribution of proscribed substances by students on school property, or at school-related activities.

The policy states that the underlying rationale of this is to protect students and promote their health and well-being.

Also prohibited are unapproved performance-enhancing substances — those substances found on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list and/or anabolic steroids as defined in Maryland Code.

The board also put in place a guideline for the fall semester of 2013 that will require all student athletes to have a grade-point average of at least 2.0.

During the meeting, new officers were elected within the board. Ed Root replaced Sara-Beth James as president and Laurie Marchini received the nod to remain as vice president.

Greg Larry can be contacted at