Oak Mountain receives safety award

COLUMBIANA, AL (WBRC) - By Katie Herrera

COLUMBIANA, AL (WBRC) - Oak Mountain High School was honored by Attorney General Troy King on Monday. King presented the school with a 2010 Safe Schools Initiative Award.

King started the program after the tragedy at Columbine High School, recognizing schools with outstanding safety procedures in place. Only 11 schools were given the award this year.

Safety at Oak Mountain High starts at the front door. A sign requires all visitors to sign in at the office, and every visitor is given a name tag.

But what many students will tell you makes them feel the safest is a face – Shelby County Chief Deputy and school resource officer Jerry Riggins.

"Just seeing Officer Riggins and the other officers walking around, you can always find them in their office or in the hallways in between classes," senior Daniela Munoz explained.

"Every morning he's always directing traffic out in front of the school. Every football game, every basketball game, all the sporting events, he's always there," senior Drew Maddox said.

"Oh, I'm everywhere! I tell them you never know where I'm going to pop up. And on certain occasions, I catch them off guard sometimes," Riggins joked.

Riggins also monitors the school's 60 or so cameras. He says they are strategically placed in areas he believes trouble is most likely to take place. That way when an incident does happen, there is footage to evaluate.

Emergency preparedness is another feature King praised Oak Mountain for as he presented the award.

"As a public school parent, I can't overstate how important it is that parents have an easy mind when they drop their kids off at school," King said. "That people have planned and prepared, that God forbid, if something should go wrong, we know what to do to protect our kids."

Riggins often runs emergency drills with the students. There are designated emergency lock down shelters around the school. And emergency procedures can even be found in the bathrooms.

"School safety is never a concern for us here at Oak Mountain," Munoz said.