Prevention & mitigation: preparedness and communication; responses and recovery, these are the key components of a safety and security plan that Susquehanna Township Schools is coordinating with other Dauphin County agencies.
The Center for Safe Schools, of Camp Hill, PA in partnership with the Susquehanna Township School System applied for and received a Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools grant from the US Department of Education. The Susquehanna Township School District in Dauphin County, PA was selected as the coordinating municipal entity and the project will bring all the municipal schools and Emergency Management organizations into the coordinated plan and will serve as a pilot project for the State.
The grant and project are being coordinated by Dr. Steven Houser, the Assistant Superintendent at Susquehanna and Donald W. Smith, M.Ed. the Emergency Response Coordinator at the Center for Safe Schools. The scope of the grant is to bring all schools within Dauphin County into compliance with the National Incident Management System NIMS including the Incident Command System ICS for school officials.
The NIMS training focuses on three groups of professionals; school presonnel with any response role.This group receives ISC 100 training with the expected outcome is to gain a basic awareness of school emergency management.
The second level of training include school personnel administrative with supervisory school safety and energency response duties which included administrators, response team members, security and school police and facilities managers and school nurses. This group receives ICS 200 training with the expected outcome is that this group can effectively manage smaller incidents and supervise crews or teams.
The third and top level group includes overall school safety preparedness personell which may include superintendetnts, directors of safety & security of the school police chief and emergency team leaders. This team receives ISC 300 and ISC 400 training. The outomes for the training for this group is competence and full leadership roles and responsibilities within the command structures including coordinating with other agencies such as the local police, EMS and fire departments.
What ICS-NIMS compliance means is that all responders and school officials will be working under a common set of terminology, organizational framework and common operating objectives. The more schools, and other organizations, can pre-plan and train with local responder the quicker and more efficieient the processes will occur in a real emergency. This is important in that time saved in an emergency often equates to lives saved. One such time saving activity schools, and other organizations can complete to assist emergency responders is committing to the NFPA door numbering system.
When asked to be more specific about what this means, Donald Smith replied, " it means that all outside doors will have a common naming system so that fire, police and EMS professionals will know how to understand and access all buildings. It also means that all inside doors will have a common numbering system and placement of the numbers so all emergency professionals and the school emergency team will be able to speak and coordinate their work and teams more effectively. If you want to boil it down, if means getting everybody to play nice in the sandbox," Smith continued.
The project also has an independent evaluation component. Intermediate Unit 15 is charged with providing an independent evaluation of the project as part of the grant. Other school districts in the State that are involved in similiar programs are: IU 29 Schuylkill County, IU 13 Lancaster-Lebanon, Susquehanna, Bethlehem Area School District and Gateway School District, near Pittsburgh. "Not all these projects have the same scope as the Susquehanna School District," explained Smith.
Project CLEAR, Connecting Local Educators and Responders includes Susquehanna Township School District as the lead educational agency includes:
Urban Districts: Harrisburg and Steelton-Highspire
Suburban Districts: Middletown Area, Derry Township and Dauphin County Technical School
Rural Districts: Lower Dauphin, Halifax Area, Millersburg and Upper Dauphin
Non-Public Education Partners: Diocese of Harrisburg, Milton Hershey School
Community Emergency Responders:
Susquehanna Township Fire, Police, EMS and EMA
Dauphin County Fire Chiefs Association
Dauphin County Chiefs of Police Association
Dauphin County EMS Council
Dauphin County Emergency Management Agency
Other County Agencies:
Dauphin County District Attorney's Office
Dauphin County Sherriff's Office
Dauphin County Office of Mental Health
Consortium Partner: Center for Safe Schools