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Frederick County installs panic buttons at Winchester Hall

Friday - 3/9/2012, 6:00am  ET

There is no cause for alarm, county officials say, but three panic buttons have been installed at Winchester Hall.

The buttons are hidden under the dais in the first- and third-floor meeting rooms, as well as the reception area on the third floor. County Manager David Dunn -- a retired police officer -- said it was his idea.

"I just want to make it clear that the board neither asked for it nor was really enthused about getting them," Dunn said Thursday. "There haven't been any threats. I think some security measures are just routine."

The buttons are strictly a precaution, Dunn said, and were part of an overall review of security at Winchester Hall and other county buildings.

"I felt the board was very vulnerable in the third-floor meeting room," Dunn said. "It's open to the public and there are contentious issues."

Employee layoffs, the county's comprehensive plan and immigration are just some issues Dunn gave as examples. The buttons were installed to keep the public and other employees protected as well, he said.

The buttons in the two meeting rooms are under Commissioners President Blaine Young's seats.

"There was never an instance where I felt something could happen," Young said. "I don't want to live in a naive world either. ... Panic buttons are a good measure to have."

Young said he likes being visible to the public and does not plan to shy away.

"Some nights I might even pick you up in a taxi," he said with a chuckle. "I don't anticipate that I will have to use (the button). It's just one of those things that's there -- I guess -- if needed."

The panic buttons cost $800 each to install, Dunn said, and it costs $300 a year to keep them monitored.

The alarms have not been activated since they were installed a few months back. The alarm company would call the police department if there were a problem.

Cameras have also been installed to better monitor the building and parking lot at Winchester Hall.

The fact that small communities across the country have experienced problems should be reason enough for Frederick County to beef up security, Dunn said.

"We don't want something to happen and then we look at each other and say, 'Why didn't we take some more precautions?'" Dunn said.