Protecting our kids — a coordinated effort.

January 19, 2016

Editorial by Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

On Dec. 14, 2012, Mason County Sheriff-Elect Kim Cole was driving home from the Michigan State Sheriff’s Association Sheriff School. Kim had been elected just over a month prior to that, after spending over 25 years as a road deputy. He received a phone call from then-Custer Fire Chief John Allison (who has since passed away). John was upset. He had heard the news that 20 children had died at an elementary school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. He asked Kim what he, as the newly elected Sheriff of Mason County, was going to do about keeping our kids safe.

Shortly after that, Kim was appointed undersheriff, until he swore the oath of office on Jan. 1, 2013. At that time, he took steps to form a school safety committee, made up of representatives of each of the schools in Mason County, including the private schools, and also key players in emergency services.

Most people in Mason County by now are aware of the The Boot school door safety fund raising and installation campaign that has taken place since October. Within the next couple of weeks every door in every school in the county will have the device installed, helping to keep “the bad guy” from kicking in the classroom or office doors. Further, many people are aware of the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, County, Evacuate) trainings that have taken place at local schools, which teaches children and staff to run and hide, but fight the “bad guy” if they have to.

The committee, though, is much more than those two topics. It also is about making sure that the key players — those who protect our children — work in a smooth, professional, coordinated effort in any type of an emergency.

Today, was one of those days.

Just shortly after noon, Covenant Christian School in Amber Township received an email stating there was a bomb in the school. By coincidence (or perhaps a divine intervention), the children were outside at recess. The school was quickly evacuated, 911 was called, police, fire and EMS were dispatched and school buses came from another school district. The children were quickly and quietly placed on buses from West Shore Educational Service District and taken down the road to the Mason County Reformed Church. The school’s text and email alert system informed parents/guardians that the school had been evacuated and where they needed to pick up their children.

Firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement personnel, along with school staff, put their lives on the line to protect the children of the school — our community’s children. The parameter of the school was surrounded and protected until a bomb squad from Michigan State Police arrived from Lansing. Scottville Fire Department personnel stood by in case the unthinkable happened to the school, as did Life EMS personnel. Law enforcement personnel stood at the school (must of them were off duty and called in to the scene). They also stood guard at the school, guarding the entrances from a potential threat, but also kindly greeting worried parents as they arrived — asking for identification, which was naturally prudent.

Sheriff Kim Cole was at the church coordinating the effort, and also taking time to speak with school personnel and parents, calming their nerves. He also spoke with the media, as he frequently does, providing us with the information to inform the public.

The situation ended with no bomb found and every child safe at their homes.

Kudos to those who protect our children! I am thankful to live in such a great place and to know that these people are here for us. I am thankful to know that our sheriff isn’t just an administrator who sits at a desk, but instead is someone who is leading his troops. I’m thankful for Mason County Sheriff’s Office, Scottville Police Department, Ludington Police Department, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (conservation officers were on scene) and Michigan State Police. I am thankful for Scottville Fire Department (and all our county’s fire departments) — men and women who get paid very little to leave their jobs and families to protect our children (and most would do it for no pay). I am thankful for the paramedics who are willing to rescue our children if the need arises, risking their own lives and safety.

While I do not have school-aged children, I am thankful for the professionals at Covenant Christian School (and again, all our county’s schools), for how much they truly care about our kids.

God bless each and everyone of you!

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