Delaware is looking to become the first state to implement a comprehensive school safety plan. Previously the creation and implementation of such plans was in the hands of each individual school or district; however under the Omnibus School Safety Act, which was signed into law roughly eight months ago, responsibility was turned over to the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security.
“Though all schools have school safety plans, the quality of them has been quite mixed,” said Gov. Jack Markell. “We were committed to fixing that.”
The act designates school staff as first responders and it allows emergency services personnel the tools necessary to access school safety information.
Markell, Sen. Bryan Townsend (D-Newark) and Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Lewis Schirillo made a presentation at Polytech High School in Woodside on Wednesday, announcing progress of the creation and implementation of the plans.
The primary tool that the state is using to facilitate the sharing of information between the state, the schools and the first responders is SafePlans, a cloud-based emergency preparedness application. Brad Spicer, president and CEO of SafePlans was on hand to explain the role the software will play.
“It will be a web-enabled tool where school officials will go on and complete their plans online and [the software] will generate mobile apps, PDFs and turn [the plan] into a living document,” Spicer said. “As the state establishes new best practices over time, they’re going to be able to go into one location in the software and make a change and efficiently roll that out to all schools in the state.”
The software will serve as the repository where the school emergency response data, pictures of the school and school building plans can be accessed by school employees and emergency services personnel in the event of an emergency. The data can be accessed by computer, tablet or smart phone. Each school will also have a print copy of the same information.
The software also includes online training programs which will be administered to every teacher and substitute teacher in the state to ensure that they are aware of how to respond in an emergency.
Schools will also be able go through a security assessment of their campus.
The SafePlans software has already been put through its paces. The United States Department of Homeland Security has designated the software as a certified anti-terrorism technology.
A process for implementing the comprehensive plans and the software has been created. Joint planning meetings will be held in each county, bringing together educators and public safety personnel. In these meetings what Spicer called “best practices” will be identified in order for schools to establish proper responses to emergency situations.
Page 2 of 2 - These procedures will then be tested in districts to ensure the effectiveness of emergency response procedures and the efficiency of the software. A second round of tests will be conducted before the plans are implemented, Spicer said.
Statewide implementation will begin in August and is slated to be complete by the beginning of January 2014. After implementation, tabletop exercises, which are essentially simulations where school personnel practice responding, will be conducted and additional training programs will be given.
“This is an exciting step along the way. We knew that when we signed the Omnibus School Safety Act that that was an important step, but that was just the beginning,” Markell said. “So now the hard work has already started. A couple dozen schools have already done their plans, but this allows us to take it to scale.”