Administrative teams of six Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) recently received public safety radios to directly communicate with first responders if a life-threatening emergency arises at a school.
The digital portable radios — Motorola XTS 5000 models — directly connect schools with Charles County’s Department of Emergency Services, prompting a faster response by first responders, said Jason Stoddard, director of CCPS safety and security. The radios were given to Indian Head, Eva Turner, Malcolm, Dr. Gustavus Brown, Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy and Dr. James Craik elementary schools.
“Each school has a unique security issue,” Stoddard said. Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy and Malcolm are remote, sitting in locations that could increase response time. Eva Turner, Dr. Brown, Craik and Indian Head have open floor plans. “[The radios] are improving our ability to communicate … to expedient notification of emergency services and get help [to schools] faster.”
The county’s department of emergency services donated the $5,000 radios to the six schools. With the aid of grant money, Stoddard and his team are striving to place a public safety radio in all CCPS schools by the end of the school year. The radios are among safety enhancements that are happening in county schools as part of CCPS’s See Something, Say Something initiative. Updated background checks for employees and volunteers, reconfiguration of school entryways, construction of walls in open space schools and an online reporting tool have been implemented over the summer. Safety enhancement projects continue throughout the county.
At Malcolm, Principal Mary Finneran and Vice Principal Patricia Mooring learned how to use the public safety radio from Chris Thompson, assistant chief of the county’s fire/EMS communications. With the radios, schools will be able to directly reach emergency services if a life-threatening situation arises that demands assistance, cutting out the need to call 911.
Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2014, Thompson has been pushing for enhanced safety features at area schools. “I’m ecstatic this stuff is happening,” he said. “These are kids and we need to care of them.”
Teachers at Malcolm will soon each get a walkie-talkie to make interschool communication easier, and the public safety radio brings peace of mind, Finneran said. “It does make us feel safer,” she said.
“It’s a great first step,” Stoddard said. “Little wins equal momentum.”
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,900 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.