- Associated Press - Monday, March 17, 2014

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) - Principal Charlie Eisenreich has the power to lock down Apollo High School. It comes with the job - but now it’s literally at the touch of a button.

Eisenreich and five others will soon begin carrying devices giving them the ability to trigger an instantaneous lockdown at that building.

It’s all part of an upgraded safety and warning system aimed at shaving seconds off responses with earlier lockdown notifications that alert essential law enforcement and district officials and warn anyone outside the school of a serious situation inside.

Blue lights newly installed at every entrance are meant to prevent more people from entering the building.

A school bus driver who arrived late at Apollo and noticed blue lights flashing atop the school, for example, could turn the bus around instead of dropping 30 additional kids off into a state of emergency. Or a teacher who had gone out to lunch would know not to re-enter the building.

Apollo is the first St. Cloud school to receive the upgrade, according to Bryan Brown, the district’s supervisor of buildings and grounds. He said that’s because it’s the district’s largest building and has high traffic as the district’s headquarters is housed there.

Brown has been with the district for 24 years and is overseeing the implementation of the $9,000 system that district employees installed at Apollo last month. The new system is monitored by All State Communications for $16 per month.

The school’s current system requires a 911 call from someone in the building. Then emergency operators call the administration office back, and a phone tree is used to notify law enforcement and school administration.

If a police officer is in a meeting with his or her radio off, he or she may not hear the call.

“Now with this new system, it notifies the office and police department and key personnel at the building all at one time,” Brown told the St. Cloud Times (http://on.sctimes.com/1gqXs6J).

When an administrator or school resource officer initiates that alarm, the police department is notified, a specific list of school administrators and police officers receives a text message and those blue lights start flashing.

“We are trying to protect not only our students and staff on the inside but we are also trying to protect the public on the outside of the building,” Brown said.

The system went live Tuesday, Brown said, and performed well in its first test. Apollo still needs upgrades to its public address system, but once those updates are complete, the PA will emit a recorded emergency message when triggered.

All St. Cloud schools will eventually have the same system.

School security consultant Ken Trump, who consults on a national scale and has worked in the field for 30 years, says education and awareness will be two of the most important factors in the success of a system like Apollo’s.

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