Safety a top concern for officials

By Sharon Wittke

Principals, pastors and public servants share one element in their job descriptions — to prevent random violence, such as the Feb. 27 shootings at a Chardon, Ohio, high school that left three students dead, from occurring.

Local officials charged with the safety of the public — school administrators, clergy, and city and county personnel — regularly conduct drills and monitor security devices to enhance the safety of their buildings.

“We do take a lot of security measures,” said Steve Murphy, Carbondale Community High School superintendent.


He said the high school holds two lock-down drills each year, when teachers and students practice the procedures to follow in a crisis such as a confrontation with an armed person.

Doors and window locks are checked regularly and the staff is trained to be vigilant, he said.

Practicing a plan is important and whether the emergency is extreme or minor, preparedness is the key to keeping everyone safe, Murphy said.

He said the school conducts an annual review of the emergency preparedness plan, which also includes drills for fires and tornados.

Murphy said he could count on excellent support from the city’s police department if needed. He said whenever there has been any type of incident, the Carbondale police have responded quickly.

“We have a good relationship with the police department,” he said.

Murphy said the school has experienced and caring social workers and teachers who reach out to students with problems.


He said because of his exceptional staff, he thought the students would have someone at the school they could turn to if in need of help with a personal problem.

“Hopefully, there’s never a kid that feels that desperate,” he said, referring to the student responsible for the Ohio shootings.

Church officials have also taken measures to protect their congregations against intruders.

Greg Darling, staff pastor at Vine Community Church in Carbondale, said the church has taken a number of actions to keep everyone safe, particularly children attending their youth programs.

“All children are checked in and checked out by their parents,” he said.

Darling said the church uses bar code scanning for the check-in process.

“It’s quite a unique system,” he said.

Everyone who works with children at the church has a background check, even people who have been members of the congregation for years, Darling said.

He said the church has been very fortunate to not have had any violent incidents such as the First Baptist Church in Maryville, where the Rev. Fred Winters was shot and killed in March 2009.

Public buildings such as courthouses and civic centers have also increased their security during the past decade.

In Jackson County, the sheriff’s department is charged with keeping courthouse employees and visitors safe.

Lt. Mike O’Leary, Jackson County Sheriff spokesperson, said that everyone who comes into the county court house in Murphysboro must pass through a metal detector while their bags are x-rayed.

“We have a single entry point that’s always manned by a bailiff,” he said.

O’Leary said there haven’t been any significant security incidences since the court house upgraded its security measures after 9/11.

Other public buildings such as the Carbondale Civic Center also take precautions to ensure the safety of employees and visitors.

Carbondale City Manager Kevin Baity said in an email there are security measures in place and they are tested as needed.

“Those security measures which are visible include security cameras and lockable doors,” he said.

He said he declined to discuss the measures further because making details known to the public would be counterintuitive to their purpose.