PIKE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - In the wake of recent mass shootings across the country, school districts nationwide are re-evaluating safety protocols.
In Pike County, the sheriff's office is upgrading its equipment and implementing new training procedures.
Sherriff Russell Thomas said the county has spent about $60,000 on upgraded tactical gear for their special response team and their school resource officers.
In an emergency, deputies will now be outfitted with ballistic helmets and upgraded vests and shields designed to withstand an AR-15. Deputies will also have new tactical belts equipped with a tourniquet holster and medical kit.
Thomas said after the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, you can never be too prepared for the possibly of an active shooter on a school campus or in the community. It's why he said he wants his deputies to have the best training and equipment as possible.
"We need to have our people in the right frame of mind to be able to assess the situation and to react immediately," Thomas said.
Deputies already have master keys to all schools, but now they will have devices that allow entry into any building with ease. "We also ordered some special devices so that if we need to gain entry, that will not stop us. We will be able to get to where we need to be," Thomas said.
This summer, responding deputies will train with the new equipment and better familiarize themselves with the layout of each school campus.
"We're also going to bring in some outside resources to train in these schools, active shooter training," Thomas said.
"I've never seen it as bad as it is right now. The crime, with guns, with drugs in our society, so what we've got to do is we got to raise our level," he said.
The Pike County school system is also revisiting their safety plans.
Superintendent Mark Bazzell said they are working with the sheriff's office to look at involving outside agencies to assist with preparation and response.
Bazzell released the following statement: "In light of recent mass shooting incidents, the Pike County School System continues to partner with Sheriff Russell Thomas and his deputies including his deputies assigned to our schools as SROs. Over the years, keeping our students and staff safe has been a priority for the PCSO and our school leadership. You can never train, plan, practice too much for the things designed to mitigate the impact of events like we have seen in the news recently. Last week Sheriff Thomas and I discussed the need for, not only PCS and the PCSO to revisit our plans, but to also look at involving other agencies, in preparation and response. We appreciate the attention the Sheriff is bringing to this issue locally. It is so unfortunate that this is something that is now necessary."
The tactical equipment was funded by the Pike County Commission and the Pike County Sheriff's Office.
Thomas said if you see something, say something. Contact local authorities if you are aware of a potential threat.
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