School security discussed
Mars officials praise police
Cranberry Eagle
Written by:
March 18, 2013

ADAMS TWP — After two bomb threats within three weeks, Mars School District officials are making student and staff safety a community project.

At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, both Superintendent William Pettigrew and board president Dayle Ferguson praised the efforts of Adams Township, Middlesex Township and Mars police officers when the threats occurred on Feb. 11 and March 7.

The district’s director of communication, Josh Schwoebel, said he met with officers from the three police departments last week to go over the district’s crisis response handbook so appropriate updates could be made.

He said items discussed included bomb threats, lockdowns, evacuations, police access to buildings, and various safety procedures. The discussions will result in modifications to the district’s crisis response procedures.

“Those changes will be made in the next few weeks,” Schwoebel said.

Assistant Superintendent Matt Friedman said Middlesex Township patrolman Conrad Pfeifer will talk with teachers about crisis situations at their April 2 in-service day.

Pfeifer said on Wednesday that he has attended training at the Allegheny County Police Academy and earned his certification in critical incident response. He also is an instructor at the academy, and provides active-shooter training to Middlesex and Adams township police officers.

Pfeifer said his presentation will be a critical incident response review, and will train teachers on proper responses in situations like bomb threats, school shootings, emergency evacuations and other incidents. The training will include specific responses for each school building.

Pfeifer said he has been in the emergency response field for 30 years as a paramedic, police officer, and public safety diver. He said the most dramatic changes in emergency response operations came after the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999.

“That totally changed the way law enforcement handles incidents,” Pfeifer said. “Since then, it’s been evolving and ever-changing training.”

He said the very latest accepted tactics will be discussed during his presentation at Mars next month.

Adams Township police Chief Bill Westerman said on Tuesday that the supervisors are still working on an agreement in which an Adams Township police officer would be assigned to patrol all five of the district’s school buildings full-time during the school year.

Westerman said the department has assigned an officer to the school district every day since the Newtown, Conn., shootings in December. He said officers will remain assigned to the district until an agreement is worked out.

“We rotate them through,” Westerman said of the single officer assigned to the district each week. “That way, everyone gets to know them and they get to know the people in the schools.”

Ferguson attended an Adams Township supervisors meeting in January to ask for an officer to be stationed at the district to patrol the schools.

Ferguson said the board appreciates the way supervisors and law enforcement in the district have shown their concern for Mars.

“It really has been the community coming together for the safety of our students and staff,” she said.