Hannibal Fire Department officials repurposed materials once used to extinguish fires into devices that could help keep Hannibal Public School District students safe from active shooters.

Hannibal Fire Department officials repurposed materials once used to extinguish fires into devices that could help keep Hannibal Public School District students safe from active shooters.

Firefighters donated to the district 200 new security tools, known as Safety Sleeves, which were created from sections of old fire hose to secure doors during lockdown situations. Chief Mike Benjamin brought the Safety Sleeves on Thursday, Oct. 4 to the district's Administration building. He and the district’s business manager Rich Stilley demonstrated how to slip the small sleeve over the hinge mechanism at the top of a classroom door, preventing the door from opening from the outside.

“This hose is a barrier,” Stilley said. “In an intruder situation, if they can't gain access, studies show that they are going to go the next door. So it is adding time for first responders to arrive and take care of the intruder.”

Hannibal School Superintendent Susan Johnson said that local administrators and faculty members had regularly sought ways to bolster security throughout the district and welcomed the fire department into the discussion.

Benjamin said the department normally gives the old hoses to organizations who need them after about 15 years of service. With this new repurposing opportunity, he is prepared to give the school district as many of the sleeves as desired.

“Everybody's been really happy with what we've got so far,” Benjamin said. “This is an inexpensive way for (the district) to (increase security). We're just trying to be proactive to keep our kids safe.”

Safety Sleeves are the brainchild of a Kansas teacher. Benjamin said teachers and students can quickly install the safety device over the hinge mechanism.

Stilley said he regularly works with the district's three school resource officers, the Hannibal Police Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol to test security measures and address any potential weaknesses. He said a network of 10-30 cameras in each school building helps school officials and law enforcement officers regularly evaluate what is happening — and the process never ends.

“We're never satisfied,” he said. “We want to continue to get better, to get stronger and not be a soft target, but to make sure the kids have a great educational environment. It's safe, and they're able to learn, and not worry about their safety.”

Johnson said that the new sleeves go hand-in-hand with ALICE training (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) — which began in 2017. She said the training includes elementary students this year, including a book that articulates how to stay safe. Staff and students in each school conduct drills to practice the best response to a situation, and the new Safety Sleeves will be a part of the system.

The new sleeves provide added peace of mind for Brenda Campbell, Hannibal Middle School’s food service manager. She has three grandchildren: a four-year-old, a three-year-old and a two-year-old. Her oldest grandchild is in preschool and will be in kindergarten next year.

“It makes me feel great that we are taking extra steps to prevent intruders and to promote safety,” she said.

trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com