ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WALA) - Orange Beach Elementary may now be one of the safest public schools in Baldwin County. Security experts have spent the last few weeks implementing several new security measures at the school in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre.
Council members approved $15,000 December 18 for immediate improvements at Orange Beach Elementary School.
New surveillance cameras, panic buttons and sirens spread throughout the school are some of the measures that have been taken by the city of Orange Beach to provide a safer school.
"We've long had our plans of what we could do and would do if we had an instance here," said Orange Beach Police Chief Billy Wilkins. "After the big tragedy, we just started looking at ways we could make the actual facility safer."
Teachers have access to panic buttons which trigger alarms throughout the school. A signal is sent to a security company who immediately contacts police. In the couple weeks the school has had this new system in place, there have been a couple false alarms, but officials said they used those false alarms to help evaluate the system.
"We didn't know it was accidental activation," Wilkins said. "We didn't treat it that way. It was a lot better than doing a drill, I can tell you that."
Officials have upgraded the DVR recording system as well. For security reasons, officials would not allow video to be shot of the system or discuss the placement of all of the cameras. Police also have the ability to monitor all cameras off site if the need should arise.
One new measure that is very visible is the armed officer that now roams the campus. The police department made that position permanent. School Principal Lori Brocato said they're glad to have him.
"The officer on campus - everyone has adapted well to him," Brocato said. "He's a good fit for our school, so things are great."
One parent of a sixth grader FOX10 talked to said that the children are just as glad to have the officer around.
"Not that it's going to happen here, but if it does, when will it happen and I think having a police officer on the school campus makes a big difference," said Terry Dorazio. "The children feel safer. I've heard that from them."
Looking ahead, the school would like to make a few more improvements like fencing in the school yard and enclosing an exterior walkway. Orange Beach Elementary is the first school in Baldwin County to take these kinds of safely measures. The improvements were all funded by the city.
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