Administrators from Maryville and Alcoa City Schools saw another view of their campuses Wednesday morning — from inside the Blount County E-911 Center.
“I think we have a few more capabilities than you think we do,” center Director James “Jimmy” Long told the educators.
Displayed on the center’s large wall screens were multiple views from schools across all three districts in the county.
With a click, dispatchers can call up live images from specific cameras at specific schools at their work stations or on the wall displays.
If a call or alarm comes into the station, dispatchers can provide information to first responders while they are on the way, Long explained.
Along with the live camera views, they have access to a dashboard of resources organized through a system provided by the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, from call lists to floor plans.
The center is adding the capability to automatically identify the exact location of a phone inside the schools making a call to 911.
Text alerts will go out to key public safety and school officials when there is a call or alarm.
“All public safety has to work together to make it happen,” Long said.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Sgt. Jeff Hicks, supervisor of school resource officers for the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, said of the efforts to improve school security.
From the day after students left Blount County Schools last summer until the day before they returned, 360-degree photos were taken of every room in the schools, which are available through the dashboard.
That allows emergency responders to see the key features of rooms and hallways they may never have visited before.
When a principal was held hostage at gunpoint at Montvale Elementary School nearly 20 years ago, “We sketched the floor plan on a piece of notebook paper,” recalled Long, who at the time was a BCSO deputy and hostage negotiator.
Upgrading the E-911 Center’s technology last year was key to the additions being made now for school safety, Long said.
Hicks recalls years ago when during fire drills teachers held up green or red cards to indicate whether all their students were present. Now they can report in by cellphone or Chromebook computer, and the count of teachers reporting in and students appears in real time on the screen at the E-911 Center. The system was demonstrated Wednesday during a fire drill at Montvale.
With the virtual floor plans being created, users can click to see the location of every fire extinguisher or automated external defibrillator within a school, Hicks showed. The color-coded floor plans also show the location of hazardous materials, such as the chemicals for science labs.
The live camera views already are online for all city and many county schools, and Long expects the remaining schools to be up by year’s end.