Steuben Co. Sheriff returns from school safety meeting in Parkland, Fla.

Steuben County Sheriff Tim Troyer (left) at a memorial in Parkland, Florida for the 17 people killed in a shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglass High School on Feb. 14.

ANGOLA, Ind. (WANE) – Steuben County Sheriff Tim Troyer has returned from a life-changing trip to Parkland, Florida, one where he was a key member of school safety commission meeting. The event was called by Max Schachter, the father of one of 17 victims killed in a shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglass High School on Feb. 14.

Troyer attended in his role as president of the Indiana Sheriffs Association. He has been advocating for more school security systems like the experimental one at Southwestern High School in Shelbyville, Indiana which has now captured the interest of individuals in Florida, including Schachter.

The meeting, which happened Monday, was held in part to learn about how Indiana is providing school safety as well as to brainstorm other best practices to prevent school shootings.

A major focus was Southwestern’s 2014 pilot program, which earned the school the title of “safest school in America.”

“One thing that can bring everybody together and that we can all agree on is the classroom environment in our schools, not only in this state but in this entire country, need to be safe,” Troyer said. “They need to be a safe zone for our children and that’s exactly what happened with the structure in Shelbyville.”

Southwestern has a secure network that’s connected to an E-911 call center. In the case of an active shooter, a teacher wearing a fob can activate it to alert the call center. The system then arms in 20 seconds.

The system locks all classroom doors which are ballistic-hardened, glass included. It also has cameras which the 911 operator can use to locate the attacker and then activate “hot zones,” smoke cannons which will isolate the shooter and hinder their ability to see.

With this system, teachers can communicate with authorities and have a safe corner in their classroom to protect students from a shooter.

“It all goes back to the fact that one common denominator that we know is these incidents start and end inside four to six minutes,” Troyer continued. “That’s all the time we have. Four to six minutes. It’s critical that we have real-time intelligence when something like this occurs that law enforcement and people responding do not waste valuable time going in other directions. They’re actually going right to the source and neutralizing that source.”

The system at Southwestern cost about $400,000. On average Troyer said it will cost a school is $800,000 to $1.5 million, but believes it’s absolutely worth it.

“Major league baseball parks have camera systems that can track a foul ball thousands of yards a way and then read the fine print on an individual’s t-shirt and feed that back for us to see in our living rooms yet we’ve got camera systems in some of the schools, not only in this state but in this country, that have delays, they have minimal coverage, and they’re not directly fed to law enforcement to give us that intelligence. It’s time that changed.”

Troyer reports the commission in Parkland was receptive to his presentation that highlighted Southwestern’s system. He was one of about 30 panel members at the closed and candid meeting, which included law enforcement, government representatives, and school officials. The audience of about 40 had invested individuals, including survivors and parents of victims of the Majory Stoneman shooting.

“To listen to some of the survivors and listen to the parents talk about how, ‘it was just a normal day when they got up that morning,’ and to listen to that and see the outcome, you want to step up and you want to do something about it,” Troyer said.

Troyer believes turning schools into hardened safe zones is the first step to preventing school shootings. After that, communities can discuss other ideas such as arming teachers, adding more school resource officers, addressing mental health, and creating laws to deal with copycats.

He is currently preparing for a closed and candid meeting in Steuben county that will involve the county’s superintendents, school board presidents, and law enforcement leaders.