Plans, Training and Partnerships Play Important in K-12 Emergency Communications

Here’s how Ohio education officials implemented crisis response programs and solid school/first responder partnerships so the state’s school safety efforts would be comprehensive.

In the Buckeye State, school and government officials have created the MARCS In-School and SchoolSAFE communications systems to provide a direct link from K-12 campuses to law enforcement and other first responders. The adoption of these two-way radio systems have helped to shorten police, fire and EMS response times during campus emergencies.

In addition to improving communications interoperability, Ohio education officials implemented crisis response programs and solid school/first responder partnerships so the state’s school safety programs would be comprehensive. Following the Chardon school shooting, the Ohio Department of Education introduced a number of initiatives to prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from a crisis.

In 2013, the department collaborated with the Center for P20 Safety and Security to develop a program that provides guidance to promote physically safe and emotionally secure environments for students, educators and staff. In addition, Ohio Revised Code 3313.536 requires “that the board of education of each city, exempted village, and local school district and the governing authority of each chartered nonpublic school adopt a comprehensive school safety plan for each school building under the board’s or governing authority’s control.”

In June of the same year, the School Safety/Emergency Operations Plan was developed by the Attorney General’s School Safety Task Force, outlining information and best practice recommendations that Ohio schools can use to build effective safety plans. In order to provide accurate information to first responders, schools are encouraged to include three key components in the development of a safety plan: Incident Response Plan, Floor Plan and School Safety Plan Protocols. This comprehensive approach promotes greater efficiency of operations during an emergency in a school facility.

The Chardon school district also implemented preparedness measures to ensure a unified effort between school staff and emergency responders in the event of a crisis. Joint training sessions were conducted in which both teams worked together to develop effective response protocols. In addition to the initial training efforts, simulation activities have been built into routine school lock-out drills to ensure an appropriate level of comfort with all personnel utilizing the system. All campuses in the district have provided their school’s floor plan to local law enforcement and the Ohio State Attorney’s Office to assist first responders when they arrive on the scene.

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