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Schools need safety plans

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POSTED: May 17, 2007 5:02 a.m.
ATLANTA — It seems like every day there is news about a violent episode on a campus that raises concerns for our children and the safety of their school.
By law, every public school is required to have a safety plan that prepares them for any emergency. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency encourages planners to take an “all-hazards” approach and include strategies for preparing, mitigating, responding and recovering from all natural and man-made emergencies that may affect a school, including an act of violence. Plans should include policies for lockdowns, evacuating the school, reuniting children with parents and sheltering in place if it is too dangerous to go outdoors.
GEMA’s School Safety Unit has developed a planning guide for schools to help them create their plans.
Administrators are encouraged to review evacuation and lockdown procedures and conduct exercises to test their written safety plans. Testing crisis communication plans also is encouraged to ensure parents and the media are notified when an incident occurs.
Citizens also can do their part to make schools safe. Staff, students, visitors and parents should immediately report any suspicious activity at the school or near school grounds to law enforcement.
GEMA’s school safety coordinators offer training and technical assistance to educators, emergency management and public safety personnel. Classes include incident management, a one-hour course that discusses the command structure in a disaster, and threat assessment in schools, a one-hour course that helps administrators recognize and investigate a potential threat of violence and explains how to incorporate a threat assessment program into school policy. All classes are free and will be presented to any school.
The video, “Education For Disaster,” developed in partnership with the Atlanta-Fulton County Emergency Management Agency, provides a model response using the federal Incident Command structure and also is available free of charge upon request.
For more information on school safety or GEMA’s School Safety Unit, call GEMA toll-free in Georgia at 1-800-TRY-GEMA or visit www.gema.state.ga.us
 

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