From the Chief’s Corner: Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk…America’s Safe Schools Week Proclamation

Chief Alan Perdue

By Chief Alan Perdue (ret.), SBC Executive Director

Posted on November 3, 2022

For most of us, school safety is ever present on our minds with so many of the headlines we see through various news outlets. So, when I became aware of the fact that October 16-22 was “America’s Safe Schools Week” I began reflecting on the Phrase “Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk”. In fact, I have a book titled Walk the Talk written by best-selling authors Eric Harvey and Steve Ventura that has been part of my leadership collection for many years. Although “Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk is a common English phrase, the concept of actually doing it can be challenging. Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk requires us to live the values we have identified within our life such as the Golden Rule that many of our parents taught us growing up. Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk is more than just a catchy phrase, it is a value statement that means we should support what we say, not just with words, but also through our actions regardless of any activity we are involved in at a given moment be it faith, family, work, community involvement, sports, etc.  In all situations we have a responsibility to “Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk”. 

The concept of Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk came to mind recently when thinking about America’s Safe Schools Week and the school system within my own community. I thought about the countless seminars and conferences I had spoken at and mentioned the importance of both the public and emergency responders being able to communicate within school facilities in the event of an emergency. I then reflected on my responsibility as an elected official in my community as it relates to school safety and asked the question, had I been walking the walk and talking the talk. 

There’s a time to Talk it

The answer to that question is I believe so. You see over the last couple of years I had the opportunity to highlight the importance of in-building communications for our emergency responders within our own school district. Our district is comprised of 126 campuses including elementary, middle, high schools along with alternative schools. As a former emergency responder, I knew first-hand that many of these facilities had public safety communications issues that impacted our law enforcement, fire, and EMS agency’s ability to communicate. For many years, discussion took place but little to no action had been taken to alleviate this critical life safety issue. 

After talking to folks all over the US, I figured it was time to bring the discussion to light in my own backyard. Elevating the issue to the board room allowed fellow policy makers to have a better understanding of the critical role communications capabilities plays in mitigating an emergency incident. With that, two aspects of improving overall public safety communications began to take place. 

Then there’s a time to Walk it – i.e., Act

The first step was to enhance the overall public safety 800 MHz communications system by increasing the number of towers throughout the County to ensure more consistent radio coverage throughout the service area. The additional towers assisted in eliminating some of the known dead spots our emergency responders had dealt with for years. This was a significant financial investment but one that was absolutely needed for our first responders.  However, upon completion of the 800MHz communication system upgrades we still had a significant number of facilities that had limited to no radio coverage. 

Therefore, a second step was needed to fully address the in-building communications dilemma. To clearly identify the magnitude of the problem, the Board allocated funding to perform radio frequency (RF) evaluation in all school facilities to ensure there was adequate communication coverage within each of them. These RF evaluations identified a significant number of our school facilities which had coverage issues primarily due to construction features such as building materials, low-e windows, location, etc. Upon completion of the RF evaluation there were two choices, set the document on a shelf or do something about it. Thankfully, our board chose to Walk the Walk by providing funding to begin addressing this critical need. Through collaboration with elected officials from both sides of the aisle we were able to set aside five million dollars towards eliminating these wireless dead zones by installing Emergency Responder Communications Enhancement System (ERCES) solutions in many of our facilities.

The Talk continues

To highlight the need to continue supporting school safety in our community, a proclamation was established by the County Commissioners designating October 16-22, 2022, as “America’s Safe Schools Week”. The proclamation highlights the need for all leaders at various levels of government, response agencies, school resource officers, businesses, and our citizens to focus attention on school safety and identify, develop and promote innovative answers to this critical issue. 

Download Proclamation

I had the honor of reading the proclamation in our commissioners meeting and recognizing the unsung heroes (school resource officers) that spend their days, nights and weekends focused on keeping our future (the students) safe not just during regular school hours but also at after school events. At the conclusion of reading the proclamation, a couple of other idioms came to mind, “Practice What You Preach” and “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” and I must say, it felt good knowing that our community will be in a better place because of our investment. Solving for in-building communications begins with all stakeholders including the elected officials communicating and understanding the need for RF coverage and communications capabilities. It’s also important to understand that there is no one size fits all concept that addresses each school district individually but one fact remains no matter where you live, work or play and that is emergency responders need the ability to communicate when operating inside buildings. At the end of the day, it's not what your say, it's what you do. #feelsafeinside

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Related Article: From the Chief’s Corner: The ERCES Annunciator - What Do Emergency Responders Need to Know & When?