Some of the kids we foster are placed with us for their own safety, often by the Courts. So, when it comes to keeping our little ones safe, Sam and I don’t take chances. If you visit our house in the stunning County Durham countryside, the 1st thing you will see is the large iron electric gates. The gates are there to help keep the kids in and outer people out. It sounds harsh, but when one of our kids is under a protection order by the court, Sam and I have a “duty of care” to protect the kids. The house isn’t a prison and the kids do go out and about in the community, but under supervision.
As you walk up the drive, we can see you; thanks to the CCTV cameras, which record what’s going on on the driveway and in the garden, 24 hours a day. Our only camera inside the house, is above the front door. The outer front door is opened from 6am – 10pm and then the building is protected by a reinforced and is half glass. The glass has wire in it, so even if the toughened safety glass did get broken, there is no way anyone can get their hand in and open the door from the inside. The front door is also controlled via an intercom and we can see who is at the door, before we press door release, to let the person in. The kids are not allowed to answer the door and they are also not allowed their own keys. (One of us is always at home. Either myself or Sam, or Linda or Jenny.) In the event of a power cut, we can also lock the security door manually with a key. In the event of us needing to evacuate, there is a button which will release the locking mechanism and allow us to open the door. The side door by the garage is locked by a key and the garage door via a button by the door. However, the key is accessible, via a red box with a glass panel. You break the glass panel to get the key.
If there is an emergency, we have a system in place, where we use a keyword to signal an emergencies, where there is a threat to the kids safety. We use a word that the kids often use when playing Pirates. The phrase is Battle Stations, but with the prefix emergency. So in an emergency, we use “Emergency! Emergency! Battle Stations!, I repeat: Emergency! Emergency! Battle Stations!
This is activated by using our internal telephone system. By all the outside doors, is a telephone. In an emergency, you would pick up the phone and dial 66. Once you hear the double bleep, speak clearly and slowly and state: “Emergency! Emergency! Battle Stations!, I repeat: Emergency! Emergency! Battle Stations! Once activated, hang up the phone.
When you dial 66, it activates PA (Public Address) mode on the phone system. All phones can accommodate, even if the line on a phone is in use. (The person on the phone will hear the announcement through their handset, but the caller will not hear it. We also have car speakers mounted in the ceilings in the corridors upstairs and there are speakers underneath the awnings at the back. Regardless where you are, (inside or out) you will hear the warning. On the wall by each phone, is a card with all the extensions for the house and how to activate emergency protocol.
So what happens when Emergency Protocol is activated?
First, lets create a scenario. Lets say one of the boys relatives has just breached the conditions of their bail and just climbed the walls to the garden. One of the boys spots this and knows he needs to activate the emergency protocol and runs into the house, locks the door and activates the protocol.
We will know which phone the protocol has been activated from, as the phone will announce it’s extension number after the phone is hung up. For instance: Extension 5934 (kitchen) One of the adults will go to the location the call came from and find out what is happening. In this case, we need to move the boys to safety. Normally, the safest place in the house is the Cellar. So we tell the kids go go down to the cellar. For Toby, Sam or I carry him down the stairs. If we are not at home, he is bumped down the stairs using an Evac Chair.
We close all the downstairs doors (and there is a good reason for this that I will explain in a minute) and press the red panic button by the door to the cellar. This sends a silent alarm signal to ADT, who call the Police. Once we are all down in the Cellar, we lock and bolt the door. We have 4 heavy duty steel bolts for this. (One is a kick bolt, which bolts into the concrete floor, one is a bolt that bolts into the top of the door frame and 2 bolts, which bolt horizontally into the door frame.
Now, I mentioned about the downstairs doors and there is a good reason for this. My very clever Hubby Sam, built a system, which allows us to track an intruder if they are in the house. On the wall to the cellar, is a panel with several red lights. Each light is a room downstairs, once it is switched on. When an intruder opens a door, a red light for that room lights up. If they go into a room and shut the the door once having a look, the light switches off. This is achieved by door contacts on each door, which breaks the circuit when the door is opened and completes the circuit when the door is shut. The doors have auto-closers, so it is quite easy to keep tabs on an intruder. From the cellar, we can use the phone to call the Police and update them on the situation. Of course, if they try the cellar door, they will not be able to get down there. The 4 steel bolts and the locks, prevent them from opening the door. Being a solid fire door, it is also not possible to kick it in. On top of this, there is a door at the bottom of the stairs too, for security. From the cellar, we can see the police approaching and can open the electric gates and release the front door, so they can tackle an intruder.
A bit elaborate you may be thinking… But in this line of work, we take security that little more seriously. We have a duty from the court to keep the kids safe from anyone who could seriously harm them. We have never had to use this protocol for real (and we hope we never will have to) but it is there, should we ever need to do so. The whole house is alarmed, we have CCTV and the Police know this property as on the vulnerable list, so if we need the police in an Emergency, we get priority. We have been praised by Social Services and the police, regarding our extra security arrangements.
Like I said before, the house is not a prison, it is a normal house, full of normal people, who live normal lives.
I know that these arrangements mean that the kids can sleep soundly, knowing that no one can get to them and if they did, we will take immediate action. They also know that downstairs is alarmed at night, so if anyone got in; the alarm will go off. (It is very very loud!) In the event that they need a drink during the night, a jug of orange squash and plastic cups are always put on a table, by the door that leads downstairs. (After we go to bed, the kids are not allowed downstairs. The table the jug and glasses on it, also has a lamp, so the kids can see where they are going. However, we also do the occasional drill, just to make sure that the kids and adults know what to do in an emergency.
If an intruder was silly enough to sound the fire alarm, we have a repeater panel in the cellar, so we can see where the alarm has been activated (our system is addressable, so it shows us where the alarm has been activated and which device. IE: Smoke Detector, Break Glass etc)
So that’s a incite into how we keep the boys safe from people getting into the house or the garden and what we do, should we encounter an emergency.
Time for bed! I am taking Toby to his outpatients Appointment at 8.45am!