In case of an emergency, first responders may be able to track down students and teachers a little more quickly at Brownsville Middle School.
On Friday the school launched ZERO – Zone Emergency Response Operation. It’s an easy system that uses color-coded grids to help cops and paramedics get to an emergency fast.
ZERO was created by a husband and wife team of a Miami-Dade police detective and second-grade teacher in the wake of the 2014 mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. Twenty children and six adults were killed.
“Should there be an emergency in this school, we can rest a little easier knowing there is a system in place,” said United Teachers of Dade Secretary and Treasurer Karla Hernandez-Mats. “Every second counts.”
On the back of practically every door at the school, and all along the outside, little signs identify the area with a unique number, letter and color. The school is split into zones, with zones one and two always facing north and zones three and four always facing south. That way, if a student has an asthma attack – or worse, a school shooting breaks out – police and paramedics know where to go.
Jeffrey Childers is the Miami-Dade detective who created the program through a nonprofit he started called Safer Compass Foundation.
“Just to empower a child to communicate with a first responder just by reading a sign behind the door, it’s very simplistic,” he said.
Childers launched the safety initiative after a conversation with his wife, who teaches at Somerset Academy Bay charter school, about how her school handles emergencies. The conversation kept him up at night.
“For three days, it racked my brain. And we sat at the kitchen table and we put pen to paper and we created this program,” Childers said. “If a child is having a seizure, a heart attack, or God forbid an active shooter, if we can get fire rescue of a police officer there 75 percent faster, they can do what they do best.”
His wife, Jennifer, helped develop a coloring book that teaches children how to use the system. She says she supported her husband in creating ZERO for the sake of her two young sons and her 50 students.
“I always thought that cops would find me if I were just to say, ‘Hey, I’m in room 320.’ He popped by bubble. He goes, ‘Jenny, that’s not how it is,” she said. “Now I feel safer.”
The program was piloted at Coconut Palm K-8 and may also expand to Coral Reef Elementary, South Pointe Elementary and Northwestern Senior High.