"I hope it is never used, but in case of an emergency, I am glad you guys do have access to it now," said Jake Aragon, technology director for the Dumas Independent School System (DISD). He, Jeff Livingston, assistant technology director, and DISD Police Department Chief Larry Payne were in the Moore County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Monday working out bugs in the software to allow emergency management personnel to have access to live video from the 493 security cameras across the district in case of emergency. With the issue of privacy in mind, Aragon said that the school district had an agreement with Emergency Management Coordinator Tommy Brooks that emergency personnel would only use the cameras during a fire or other emergency that required an outside-the-school-system response.
"In case of emergency, they (first responders) can scout the area before forces get there," said Brooks of the benefit of having emergency access for first responders.
"I want them to have everything at their fingertips that they need," added Payne.
Access to the cameras is restricted to a relatively small group of people on most days. "Principals have access to the cameras at their own campus. Myself and Officer Cooley have access to all of the cameras," said Payne.
"Video is kept for a month. In cases of break-ins or pulled video (of an incident), we keep that as long as necessary," said Aragon. "Principles, some admin, and technology staff have access to the videos."
Having the link to the EOC was not a part of the original plan when the cameras were installed. But continued school shootings across the country and a 2018 threat in Dumas has made security a priority for Payne and his colleagues. "From the schools' standpoint, the state several years ago made it mandatory for schools to have an emergency operations plan. I think that on behalf of all of us that have worked on it, we are always looking for ways to enhance it … to reach out especially to the emergency responders and give them all the information that they can have, that we can give them, so that they have the best response possible, if they have to come and help us," said Payne. "We have all talked about this before, and we just figured it was a good avenue to enhance our plan." Payne says having the access in the EOC was also the best way to protect the privacy of students and staff.
Brooks says he is appreciative of the cooperation between the school district and local first responders. "I would like to thank the school district. They usually go above and beyond to make sure first responders and the EOC have what we need to help them. They very seldom tell us no. They have always stepped up and been there for us. I couldn't ask for a better school district," he said.