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Showing posts with label Schools. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Schools. Show all posts

Friday, September 26, 2008

Protecting the Education Infrastructure

As reported in the Emergency Management and Response Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC) INFOGRAM 37-08, September 25, 2008: "Much effort has been expended to protect the nation’s critical infrastructures, including those of the Emergency Services Sector (ESS). However, Department of Education officials concede that educational institutions are not specifically identified as among America’s critical infrastructure sectors or key resources, which potentially makes soft targets of schools, colleges, and universities. Experts say learning facilities are vulnerable to terrorism, because of the high consequence of an attack against children. The Emergency Management and Response—Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC) gleaned from various case studies that the threat to schools may not be detected or prevented by physical security measures alone. Therefore, the EMR-ISAC suggests that ESS leaders can offer encouragement and assistance to educational centers as they conduct emergency planning and develop crisis action plans. For example, it is important that a school’s emergency plans are effectively integrated with the emergency response plans of the community in which the teaching establishment resides. Case studies further indicate that municipal authorities and their ESS leaders consider the following activities to improve the overall security of the local education infrastructure:
  • Deliver “all-hazards” awareness training for school administrators, staff, and students.
  • Train school administrators and staff regarding emergency actions.
  • Review and validate all school emergency response, crisis management, and communications plans.
  • Conduct drills and exercises to test and refine emergency response and crisis management plans.
  • Provide primary and secondary interoperable communications systems for each school.
  • Implement and test plans to maintain reliable contact with schools and school buses.
  • Arrange for a “closed-campus” environment with a single point of access for all personnel.
  • Increase police presence on school grounds by ensuring frequent visits as part of patrol routes.

There are national standards, including NFPA 1600, that address the essential elements of emergency management program. In addition, a new school preparedness standard is being developed in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education. I am principal author of that new standard, and I will provide updated information on the standard when it can be released to the public.

If you are interesting in learning more about school emergency preparedness, check out the resource links at http://www.preparednessllc.com/resources/resources.html.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Parents May Not Heed Evacuation Orders

An interesting survey was published by the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. The 2008 American Preparedness Project: Why Parents May Not Heed Evacuation Orders & What Emergency Planners, Families and Schools Need to Know
"2008 survey data illustrate that in the event of an order to evacuate parents say they are overwhelmingly likely to disregard existing community emergency plans and instead attempt to pick up their children directly from school or day care instead of evacuating separately. Were this to occur in the immediate aftermath of a sudden disaster, chaos would ensue and public safety would be jeopardized."

The studies authors made several important recommendations for schools:

  • All schools should have "well thought out" emergency plans coordinated with local emergency officials.
  • Parents need to be aware of school emergency plans and what they should do.

I have worked with numerous school systems over the past 10 years, and here are some specific recommendations:

  • Schools should conduct a detailed risk assessment to identify hazards that could injure students, teachers, staff, and others as well as damage property or interrupt school activities. The risk assessment should lead to the develop of strategies to prevent hazards or mitigate hazards that can't be prevented. The strategy should be endorsed by the superintendent, school committee, and others who need to provide funding.
  • Schools should have plans at the Superintendent or district level to manage the overall incident including communications with the community.
  • Schools should have organized emergency response teams and procedures to respond effectively to the different types of emergencies that may occur. Types of emergencies include the ones we all think of (e.g., fire, medical, act of violence, etc.) Plans should also address regional or community-wide emergencies (e.g., earthquake, act of terrorism, etc.) that are not as probable, but would put the school in the position of having to fend for itself for the initial minutes or hours.
  • Plans must include detailed procedures for evacuation, shelter-in-place, lockdown, and student/family reunification. These plans must be coordinated with public agencies including fire, law enforcement, and emergency medical services.
  • All members of school emergency response teams must be trained so they understand and can fulfill their responsibilities as defined in the plan.
  • Drills (evacuation, shelter-in-place, and lockdown) and exercises (tabletop, functional, and full-scale) should be conducted to familiarize everyone with emergency procedures and identify any gaps in plans, procedures, resources, or the capability of those who have to carry out the plans.
  • Every teacher should be trained in basic emergency procedures and every classroom should be equipped with a concise list of emergency procedures.
  • Parents need to be informed through outreach by administrators, PTO, websites, flyers sent home, and by their own sons and daughters who actively get them involved.

A national standard on school emergency preparedness is being written under the auspices of ASTM International, one of the national standards developers. I am one of the members of the committee writing the standard and we expect to present our preliminary draft to the U.S. Department of Education in November.

If you would like more information on Preparedness, LLC's services to public schools, click here.

If you would like to see an example of a school emergency preparedness website, click here.