Pflugerville ISD schools pulling fire alarms

Students and staff at all Pflugerville schools, like Springhill Elementary, go through regular active shooter training  "They are staying put, and they are doing what they need to do,” said PISD Executive Director for Health and Safety, Denise Kablaitis.

The drills include knowing when to disregard a fire alarm. 

"Unless you see fire, or see smoke, you are not going to respond, you are going to stay,” said Kablaitis. 

In the Santa Fe High School shooting the gunman reportedly pulled the fire alarm. And earlier this year, at a Parkland high school, investigators say a fire alarm caused confusion.

In an effort to remove any doubt; wall mounted alarms are being removed from all 33 Pflugerville ISD campuses. Removals will also be done at Administrative and Support buildings. Kablaitis says the District is willing to share information about the project with other school districts.

"Definitely, if we can do anything to protect the kids in Central Texas,” said Kablaitis.

The Pflugerville Fire Department made the suggestion to remove the alarms.

Fire safety specialist determined smoke & fire detectors, that are also in PISD schools, make wall mounted pull down alarms unnecessary. That recommendation initially came as a surprise for Kablaitis. "After sitting and talking to them, and listening to what they had to say, I agree they are obsolete,” said Kablaitis.

Work will begin in a few weeks. It's estimated the alarm removal will cost $78-hundred. New smoke & fire detectors will be needed at 8 campuses- costing $50,000. The renovation project does not include the installation of new technology that Governor Greg Abbott would like school districts to consider.

He brought it up Wednesday when he unveiled his school safety action plan.

"So what is needed is a separate type of alarm system so students will know if there is an active shooter as opposed to a fire they will know to responded differently, and that is to not walk into the gunfire,” said Governor Abbott.

There are several systems available that use sound sensors to pinpoint the location of gunshots.

One system was developed and launched 3 years ago by a company named Battelle; it has licensed the technology to another business. Information from the sensors is transmitted, in real time, to law-enforcement agencies and to school authorities. Shooters are located, isolated and apprehended.

The system is being used by schools, but not at PISD.

"That is not something I’m familiar with, definitely I will be looking into that more now, and if it is technology that works, and will protect our kids, then yes that will be a recommendation that will move forward,” said Kablaitis.

For now, Pflugerville ISD is taking a low-tech approach. Security guards are being hired to patrol high schools along with resource officers.

At this time there are no plans to allow the security guards to carry handguns.

Georgetown ISD is also ramping up security. It was announced Thursday afternoon that the GISD school board approved a $430,000 contract to build a secure -single point of entrance at both high schools. The District already has secured entrances in place for visitors at its elementary schools, and work at the middle schools was already approved.