Children First: New crisis response system in Tulare County schools

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Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Children First: New crisis response system in Tulare County schools
Every second counts when law enforcement responds to a call of an active shooter.

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Every second counts when law enforcement responds to a call of an active shooter.

"In an active shooter response. The goal is to get there and mitigate the threat as soon as you can," said Visalia Police Chief Jason Salazar.

ActVnet is a new web-based information program created by Tulare County Office of Education.

It's designed to eliminate some of the confusion and chaos during a crisis.

"Once the program is launched, you choose what type of incident. It could be a severe weather incident it could be an active shooter. It could be just a lockdown incident or a fire drill," explained Tim Hire, Tulare County Superintendent of Schools.

Drone footage captured previous drills with local law enforcement on Tulare County campuses.

They all can log into the system and access detailed maps of the school right down to where windows are located whether doors are solid doors or full glass location of emergency shutoff valves if there's a gas leak, or we need to shut down electrical power.

Cindy Gist is the principal at Sundale Union Elementary School and says the campus conducts drills for various situations.

"Each of our alarms or each of our drills are different. So, teaching our students that this alarm means this so then that way they're not evacuating the classroom when really they need to be staying inside, explained Gist.

Our Action News cameras captured a recent lockdown drill at Sundale.

Administrators, staff and students were instructed to stay indoors.

Using ActVnet, staff members were able to share the condition and location of students under their care.

"First thing is for me to get those kids quiet and where I need them to get turn off the lights lock all the doors and then start being in communication with the office," said Kimberlie Tyler, a teacher.

Ava Leonardo, a student at Sundale, has experienced several types of drills and knows what to do.

"They tried to tell us be calm make sure you know where the exits are know you're always in buildings and everything," Leonardo explained.

Schools with ActVnet have building signs with special IDs to help first responders navigate the campus.

Emergency personnel can log into the ActiveNet system, access a digital floor plan of the campus and connect with campus security cameras.

If there's a lockdown situation and they're barreling into a classroom or an office building, they know where doors are they know where cabinets might be where someone could be hiding," said Hire. "They know the lay of the land as opposed to going in blind."

According to Education Week, there have been over 150 school shootings nationwide since 2018 in which at least one person was killed or injured.

Every school in California is required to have a school safety plan.

26 school districts in Tulare County have signed up for Active Net and are in various stages of implementing the system.

"I don't know that I've seen a tool like this, that puts it all in one package. That that makes it available for a dispatcher to be able to see and relate information to an officer that's responding or for officers on scene to be able to engage themselves so no, I think it's unique in that sense," said Salazar.

Ava and her fellow students return to their normal activities, knowing what to do if they experience a real threat on campus.

"It's super important because if you don't know then you're gonna get in trouble right there. You don't want to get hurt or anything or anybody else wants to get hurt," she explained.