Fannin County awarded excellence in school safety

Community, News, Rebel's Corner
Exemplary Board

Blue Ridge, Ga. – When it comes to school safety, Fannin County continues to excel and was recently acknowledged by local law enforcement and emergency response for their efforts.

“One of the things that I am very very proud with Fannin County, our school system, is the relationships we that have between our government agencies, especially the sheriff’s department and the emergency management services,” Director of Transportation and Safety Benny Long said explaining that all agencies play a vital role in protecting the youth of the community.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School, School Resource Officer, SRO, Lieutenant, Darvin Couch, Safety, Emergency, Plan, GEMA, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Comprehensive Plan, Mock Drills, Certification

Fannin County School System not only met but exceeded state requirements in the area of emergency preparedness.

Faculty of the school system often train alongside these agencies preparing for a number of scenarios and Long acknowledged that there is a comfort in knowing that Fannin County’s emergency personnel is “just a phone call away”.

Looking back on the past year, the Fannin County School System took a number of proactive steps in the process of making its campuses as safe as possible for all who attend.

At the April 12, 2018 Board Of Education (BOE) meeting the board introduced the GAMB policy. This policy was adopted and essentially gave Fannin County schools the option of arming personnel.

While the new policy definitely grabbed the attention of parents and residents alike, administration and staff had also been working in other ways to help secure campuses and ensure the safety of Fannin County children.

“We work diligently everyday to ensure the safety of our students,” Long said of the ongoing efforts, “If a child doesn’t feel safe at school, they can’t learn. Those are one of the basic needs that have to met.”

One element of safety that Fannin County is proud to offer is that a School Resource Officer (SRO) is assigned to each of the school campuses.

“This is a community effort by the Fannin County School System, the Sheriff’s Department, and Blue Ridge City Police,” Long explained of groups working together for the betterment of the schools.

Long spoke specifically of the resource officers in Fannin County stating that “it takes a special person to be a resource officer. It takes someone who loves the students, who wants to be involved, and who wants to make a difference in that young child’s life.”

“That’s the best set of eyes that we have,” Long continued to explain the importance of SROs in our schools, “when a student feels comfortable reaching out to our resource officers and confiding in them and giving them information.”

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School, School Resource Officer, SRO, Lieutenant, Darvin Couch, Safety, Emergency, Plan, GEMA, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Comprehensive Plan, Mock Drills, Certification

Fannin County’s School Resource Officers credited with going above and beyond for the students.

Fannin County also has an emergency operation plan for the schools. This emergency operation plan has been in effect and constantly evolving since 2003.

The comprehensive safety plan covers a number of scenarios from weather and gas leaks to active shooters and bomb threats.

The plan in the past was vetted or checked by GEMA (Georgia Emergency Management Agency), but recently under new guidelines has been handed over to local agencies for approval.

Though local agencies are now in charge of reviewing the district’s comprehensive safety plan, it still must meet all requirements laid out by the state of Georgia as stated in O.C.G.A.20-2-1185.

“I’m going to brag on ours. Ours exceeds the minimum requirements by the state,” Fannin County School Resource Officer Lieutenant Darvin Couch said of the district’s most recent plan.

Active shooter drills were performed at the schools during the summer of 2018, but none of these drills have taken place while students were present.
Fannin County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) also performed a mock disaster drill over spring break of 2018.

Fannin County Transportation Department participated in this drill and school bus drivers got to experience the scenario of moving people during a disaster. This drill also included the setting up of shelter at Morganton Baptist Church.

Long informed the public that all schools have top of the line cameras in place, and that SRO’s as well as the Sheriff’s Office have the ability to remote access the cameras. These cameras are capable of producing clear images of not only people but also vehicles and vehicle tags.

Through the use of these high tech devices, security is able to pinpoint the “location of whatever the threat could be” and know “what they are getting ready to go into”.

Fannin County High School added 52 of these cameras in the months of March and April in 2018.

“We are working with all three of our elementary schools to work on a plan to control access at our elementary schools,” Long said of the ongoing effort to continue safety improvements.

“None of us wants to limit anyone to come to school with their child,” Long added. The school system wants parents and guardians to always feel welcome, but would like to know who and when someone enters a school building or campus.

The high school will experience a similar point of entry security measure with a “storefront” door being placed before the office at the main entrance. This door will require either a key card entry or for a person to be buzzed in.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Education, Fannin County Sheriff's Office, Dane Kirby, Superintendent, Dr. Michael Gwatney, Possession of Weapons by Employees, GAMB, Policy, Firearms, School, School Resource Officer, SRO, Lieutenant, Darvin Couch, Safety, Emergency, Plan, GEMA, Georgia Emergency Management Agency, Comprehensive Plan, Mock Drills, Certification

Members of the Board of Education along with faculty of the school system receive certification for emergency operations plan.

Beyond local networking with various emergency providers to our county, the school system was also in contact with the Georgia Secret Service Agency.

“We have actually reached out and have a contact with an agent out of Atlanta,” Long said, “and they are going to be working with us on some different measures that we can use to keep our schools safe.”

“Safety also takes on many aspects. It’s not only the school’s safety of the buildings, the campus, and the faculty, but also involves our faculty members and our employees,” Long stated.

SRO Couch presented the BOE with a certificate recognizing the work the school system has done through extensive planning in exceeding the requirements set forth in providing and updating a comprehensive safety plan.

Couch read from a letter written by Fannin County Sheriff Dane Kirby: “From tornadoes to terrorism, Fannin County faces a variety of ever-evolving threats, underscoring the importance of updating plans in cooperation with local public safety professionals.”

Kirby added in his letter,”I am pleased to inform you that your school emergency operations plans have once again successfully met the requirements of O.C.G.A. 20-2-1185.”

The BOE, administration, and staff continue to work within the community and access outside resources to provide the best safety solutions for the students of Fannin County.

 

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Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Update on Hurricane Irma Cleanup and Relief Efforts

State & National

ATLANTA (September 18, 2017) | On Thursday, September 14, 2017, Senator Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)  joined Governor Nathan Deal, local elected officials and first responders for a press conference in Habersham County  to address Hurricane Irma cleanup and relief efforts.

“First and foremost, I would like to extend my gratitude to the first responders and volunteers who are helping the ongoing recovery efforts in our local communities and throughout the state,” said Sen. Gooch. “It is an honor to join Governor Deal, our local elected officials, first responders and citizens in any and all efforts to get our state back up and running. Our citizens are resilient and I am confident that by working together, we can help those in need and rebuilt each and every community that was impacted. It was very uplifting to witness the outpour of assistance from the hundreds of employees of utility companies from all over the United States.”

On Monday, September 11, 2017, Hurricane Irma made landfall in Georgia leaving around 1 million citizens without power. The impact from Irma was felt from the coastal plains to the north Georgia mountains. The state of Georgia saw unprecedented damage caused by the tropical storm force winds that reached more than 400 miles from the storm’s center. Relief efforts are ongoing and first responders, power companies, state agencies, volunteers and citizens are working around the clock to rebuild and restore power.

Governor Deal and the federal government responded quickly and declared a state of emergency in Georgia so that funds could be appropriated to help with the financial burden of the storm. Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA) is coordinating their efforts with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state agencies and local authorities to ensure recovery, rebuilding and cleanup is completed in the most efficient and cost effective manner.

Additional information can be found on the GEMA and FEMA websites:

http://www.gema.ga.gov/Pages/default.aspx

https://www.fema.gov/

Fannin County Schools Exceed Safety Expectations

News
Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Education, GEMA, FEMA, Michael Ruple, EMA Director Robert Graham, Lt. Darvin Couch

BLUE RIDGE, GA – School safety was a reoccurring theme at September’s Board of Education meeting. Fannin County Schools had been put to the test and passed when it comes to the safety of the children.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Education, GEMA, FEMA, Michael Ruple, EMA Director Robert Graham, Lt. Darvin Couch

Fannin County Schools were awarded certificates for safety.

Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security agent Michael Ruple was present along with school resource officer Lt. Darvin Couch to announce that our school system had passed all safety criteria outlined by the State of Georgia.

Ruple stated that, “School safety is a huge issue. What we try to do is an all hazard approach. Preparing for things we can foresee and prevent.”

Each school was presented with a certificate to acknowledge this success. Ruple said that these certificates recognize that our school system has “met and exceeded Georgia law.”

Fannin County EMA Director Robert Graham was also there to present each school in our area with two new weather alert radios.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Board of Education, GEMA, FEMA, Michael Ruple, EMA Director Robert Graham, Lt. Darvin Couch

EMA Director Robert Graham gives schools new weather alert radios.

Graham stated that, “As a result of the flooding in December 2015, we were able to successfully apply for a grant from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).”

Having secured the grant Fannin County has acquired 692 new weather alert radios. Graham is hoping to start a campaign beginning next month that would provide these radios to flood prone areas.

Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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