working togetherEnhancing School Safety: A Necessary Network
There is an old saying in School Emergency Management: The first time the Superintendent and the Police Chief exchange business cards is not the day of a critical event.
Nature abhors a vacuum. So does Emergency Management Planning in K12 Schools. Schools are the experts in nurturing and educating students. Teachers and administrators have specialized training in content, curriculum, and child development. Unfortunately, educators receive very little in formalized training for School Safety.
First Responders: Our local Fire Department, Law Enforcement, and Emergency Medical Services. These men and women are highly motivated and have specialized training for responding to a man made or naturally occurring crisis. When we are overwhelmed with a situation and need help, we call our First Responders to bring order and resolution to a crisis.
The best Emergency Response Plans are those written in collaboration with Schools and First Responders. The best training and exercise programs are developed to meet the goals of both organizations.
Sadly, Schools and First Responders do not always work together to help keep our schools safe. As I work with schools throughout the United States, I often see the same barriers. The most frustrating is the Public Safety Agency that refuses to get involved because they are afraid of the possibility of liability for their agency. I would hate to be the Chief or Safety Director interviewed after a school tragedy and have to explain to the media why your agency refused to give guidance to a school for their Emergency Response Plan because you feared litigation.
Another common barrier is competing goals. Schools want safe learning environments, but are also accountable at the state and federal level for test scores. Law enforcement often wants to take an approach in training and tactics with school personnel that is both unfamiliar and frightening for educators.
As with all barriers, communication is the key. Each group must understand the roles and responsibility of both during normal times. Working together to meet the same goals is a process that usually starts with a simple invitation from the school asking
for assistance. It is a relationship that builds over time to go beyond the development of ERPs, training, and exercise.
Remember: The first time the Superintendent and the Police Chief exchange business cards should not the day of a critical event. Start building those relationships today.
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Do you have a working relationship with your First Responders?
How did you form those relationships?
How do you nurture those relationships?