Following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, where a mentally disturbed young man killed students and staff members in a short period of time while emergency responders raced to the school in December 2012, Madison Public Schools were among those evaluating its emergency response procedures and protocols.
Earlier this week at a meeting of the Madison Board of Education, Madison School Superintendent Thomas Scarice updated board members about recent improvements in school security in town.
Immediately following Sandy Hook, the town's Board of Selectman and Board of Finance approved a special appropriation of $45,000 that allowed the town to install new buzzer/camera systems at all of its schools, Scarice said. The goal was to have that work done by February break and that goal was acheived, he said.
"So far, so good"
He said so far the new equipment, and procedures, have worked well. "So far, so good," he said. "We have secured the exterior of our buildings in a way that they were not before." He said school officials feel they have made a good investment in the right technology.
The police presence at the public schools was substantially increased between December and February, while the new equipment was being installed, Scarice said.
"It went beyond providing safety and security to developing relationships," he said.
Positive feedback from parents and staff
Scarice said he has gotten very postive feedback from both parents and staff members. He said Madison Police Commander John Rich went to great lengths to find the right match for each school, taking into account which officers had experience as school resource officers and other factors.
Now that the new equipment is installed, Scarice said, the police presence will be reduced but not completely eliminated. He said the town plans to keep a visible police presence at the school campuses, and continue to build relationships between the police department and the schools.
He said the police officers check in at the front desks when they go to the schools and sometimes have a chance to talk with students as well. While police at schools have sometimes been perceived as a negative, Scarice said, the recent effort by the police department and town appears to be "changing that."
Additional measures being considered
Other efforts to improve safety and security were recently reviewed by members of the Board of Education in executive session, Scarice said.
Now that the first phasae of improvements have been implemented, longer term measures are being considered as well.
He said the police department completed an analysis of all of the schools and that further improvements to the radio systems, camera systems, the way lockdowns are executed, and the schools' buildings and campuses are being considered.
Slowing down the threat, speeding up the response
"The main concept is slowing down the threat and speeding up the response," Scarice said. "Slowing down the threat, speeding up the response."
In addition, he said, the schools are taking into account the "social and emotional" impact of any changes being considered.
In addition to intruders, the planning is taking into account other potential threats as well, he said, including natural disasters and freak accidents. A safety and security committee is meeting regularly and a subgroup will soon be making recommendations that the board will be asked to act upon, he said.
Here are some of the links recommended as part of that symposium:
Emergency Management Planning
- Helpful Hint: Steps for Developing School Emergency Management Plan http://rems.ed.gov/docs/StepsforDevelopingSchoolEMPlan.pdf
- Helpful Hint: Components of Comprehensive School & District Emergency Management Plans http://rems.ed.gov/docs/ComponentsofSchoolEMPlans.pdf
- Practical Information on Crisis Planning Guidehttp://www2.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety/emergencyplan/crisisplanning.pdf
- Resources for talking with Parents
- Helpful Hint: Families as Partners in Emergency Management http://rems.ed.gov/docs/HH_Vol2Issue7.pdf
- Collaborating with Partners
- REMS Express: Collaboration: Key to a Successful Partnershiphttp://rems.ed.gov/docs/REMSX_Vol4Issue1.pdf
- Drills & ExercisesVulnerability Assessments
- ERCM Express: Emergency Exercises: An Effective Way to Validate Emergency Management Plans http://rems.ed.gov/docs/Emergency_NewsletterV2I3.pdf
- Helpful Hint: Planning & Conducting a Functional Exercisehttp://rems.ed.gov/docs/HH_Vol2Issue4.pdf
- A Guide to School Vulnerability Assessments http://rems.ed.gov/docs/VA_Report_2008.pdf
- Integrating Planning for Special Needs Individuals
- Link to these resources on rems.ed.gov page
- COOP Planning
- Link to the COOP Planning Resources Page on rems.ed.gov
- Helping Youth Recover