Officer speaks on school safety

LEWISTOWN – Safety throughout the school district was the focus of a presentation given to a local community watch group Tuesday night by Mifflin County Regional Police Cpl. Robert Haines.

Haines, who is the School Resource Officer for Mifflin County, met with more than a dozen members of the Pleasant Acres Block Watch group at the Mifflin County High School, where he also answered questions about school security, evacuation plans and how motor vehicle traffic can be controlled.

With the national debate on gun control at full tilt and recent school shootings such as Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, those in attendance were curious to know what plans local schools have in place in case of an emergency.

“It’s a tragedy what happened, and where it happened, and how it happened.” Haines said, “But it can happen anywhere.”

Residents at the meeting asked Haines if there were places students would be evacuated to if a school shooting would take place. Some residents offered their homes in Pleasant Acres to provide safety for students.

Haines said there are locations set up and a plan is in place, so the residents do not need to worry about housing students if a tragedy occurs.

“No plan is going to work 100 percent as you want it to,” Haines said, “You prepare to adapt and overcome.”

The school has weather drills and lockdown drills for certain types of emergencies. On Feb. 11, MCHS evacuated all students and personnel due to a malfunctioning sensor in an air duct which activated the alarm system in the school as a fire alarm.

The school has a standard evacuation fire drill each month, but the evacuation on Feb. 11 was not planned and Haines said it was a “textbook” evacuation and everything went well.

Haines also said each of the school district properties is posted with “no trespassing” signs, and that a number of school buildings also have security cameras inside and out. He also explained that the camera system at the high school recently was upgraded.

“The security camera system that we have in the building is very modern (and) up to date,” haines said.

Residents said they were interested in how Haines could slow traffic down on Tanbark Drive and Cider Lane, in Highland Park. When school lets out, the residents said they feel students and some adults are driving too fast and are not careful.

Haines entertained the notion that Tanbark Drive could be restricted to local traffic only. However, area residents would have to approach their local municipalities in order to accomplish this, he said.

Vandalism at the high school is virtually nonexistent and the kids respect the building, Haines said. He also noted fighting is rare, and said the building is so large that if someone does not like another student, there is a good chance they might not even see each other all day.

Cpl. Haines can be reached at the school by calling 242-0240. For more information about Community Watch groups, residents can contact Chuck Dicken at 248-5692.