Creating a Culture of Preparedness Among Schools
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offers a wide-range of emergency preparedness resources to help schools create safe and secure environments for their students. Emergency preparedness is an important responsibility shared by all individuals as well as communities, including schools. In order to advance school preparedness nationwide, DHS offers several planning and training resources to help local schools prepare comprehensive all-hazard emergency preparedness plans that are exercised regularly and developed in partnership with their community leaders and first responders.
- Safe School Initiative: Established in collaboration by the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education’s Safe and Drug Free Schools Program, the Safe School Initiative (SSI) focuses on prevention and provides useful information about the thinking and behavior of students who commit acts of targeted violence in our nation’s schools. One of the key recommendations of the SSI was that schools form multidisciplinary threat assessment teams to assist with identifying, assessing and managing students who may pose a threat of targeted violence. An interactive CD-ROM, titled A Safe School and Threat Assessment Experience: Scenarios Exploring the Findings of the Safe School Initiative, complements the published documents of the Safe School Initiative. The CD is available to law enforcement and school safety personnel across the country and can be ordered via the Department of Education website at http://www.edpubs.org.
- Protecting Our School’s Infrastructure: DHS’ Office of Infrastructure Protection (OIP) has developed and issued Characteristics and Common Vulnerabilities, Potential Indicators of Terrorist Activity, and Protective Measures reports for public and private schools (K-12) and higher education institutions. With dual benefits in addressing both terrorism and criminal-related security issues, these resources are available to local law enforcement and school officials to help identify site-specific vulnerabilities, anomalies or incidents that may precede a terrorist attack or other kind of harmful incident, and certain measures that can be taken to better protect and create a safer environment. DHS has conducted over 40 Site Assistance Visits at schools to help officials identify potential vulnerabilities as well as Soft Target Awareness Courses that address the security of schools and higher education institutions.
- Protecting Against Man-Made or Terrorist Incidents: The DHS Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers a series of manuals and publications to help schools address their physical design and layout as part of a mitigation process to protect against terrorist attacks and natural disasters. These materials include: Design Guide for Improving School Safety in Earthquakes, Floods and High Winds; Primer to Design Safe School Projects in Case of Terrorist Attacks; Incremental Seismic Rehabilitation of School Buildings (K-12): Providing Protection to People and Buildings; and FEMA Mitigation Case Studies Protecting School Children from Tornadoes: State of Kansas School Shelter Initiative.
- School Preparedness Training Courses: FEMA also offers several courses – both online and in-person, through the Emergency Management Institute to help schools and district personnel develop emergency plans for all-hazards. Through “train-the-trainer” courses, FEMA links school personnel with first responders, law enforcement, public health officials and others to discuss different needs and decisions that may arise during an emergency such as transportation, food and health, medical assistance, facility management, and communication. More information on available courses may be found at http://training.fema.gov/emiweb.
- Lessons Learned Information Sharing (LLIS): Established to help first responders, emergency planners and managers, and homeland security partners prevent, prepare for, and respond to terrorism, this web portal includes valuable best practices and lessons learned information, including a section on school emergency planning. Additional information may be found at https://www.llis.gov.
- DHS “READY” Campaign: A national public service advertising campaign produced by The Advertising Council in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, the Ready Campaign is designed to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks. Ready Kids is the newest addition the campaign and provides a family-friendly tool to help parents and teachers educate children, ages 8-12, about emergencies and how they can help their families better prepare. Individuals interested in more information about family, business and community preparedness can visit http://www.ready.gov or call 1-800-BE-READY to receive free materials.
- Citizen Corps: Created by President Bush in 2002, Citizen Corps provides Americans of all abilities with opportunities to gain information, training, and hands-on volunteer opportunities that increase community preparedness and resilience to all types of hazards. Headquartered at FEMA, there are more than 2,220 Citizen Corps Councils nationwide. These councils operate at the community level bringing public and private sectors together with local government, emergency managers, voluntary organizations, and first responders to coordinate disaster preparedness planning and response efforts in our communities. Schools are encouraged to partner with local Councils to integrate school emergency plans with community plans; coordinate alert systems; and educate, train and exercise the school community. Visit http://www.citizencorps.gov for more information.
- Funding and Additional Resources: DHS offers several grant programs to State and local governments with potential applicability to school-related violence or terrorism. States and local governments make the decision as to whether this program may be applied to educational facilities. Information on DHS grants is available at http://www.grants.gov.
A complete DHS list of emergency preparedness resources for schools may also be found online at http://www.dhs.gov/schoolpreparedness. In addition, individuals can view a School Preparedness Virtual Town Hall conducted by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Education. This 90-minute web cast provides information concerning grant programs and other school preparedness resources available from the Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools as well as the United States Secret Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency, components of the Department of Homeland Security.