Inside: Security

Unprepared in Orange County, Calif.

Too many of the emergency-preparedness plans for schools in Orange County, Calif., are inadequate, a grand jury has concluded.

The main focus of the study was to determine if schools' emergency plans include components called for in the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS), such as whether schools had personnel assigned to various positions, whether people assigned to roles had received training, and whether schools perform drills based on the plan.

The grand jury evaluated 27 district plans and found 12 that did not meet criteria called for in the SEMS standards; 10 met those requirements; and five had plans that exceeded those requirements.

“The quality of the disaster plans is grossly unacceptable,” the grand jury says.

The jury recommends that each county district submit its plan and those for its individual schools to the county education department for review.

PREPARED FOR EMERGENCIES
95 Estimated percentage of U.S. school districts that have written emergency-management plans.
93 Percentage of school districts that inspect their buildings and grounds to identify possible vulnerabilities in the event of an emergency.
87 Percentage of school districts that have made security enhancements as a result of those inspections.
28 Percentage of school districts with emergency-management plans that do not have specific provisions for students with special needs.

Source: Government Accountability Office, “Emergency Management — Status of School Districts' Planning and Preparedness”

Florida Task Force Issues Findings

To bolster campus security, college officials should make a greater effort to communicate and share information with other agencies on campus and local authorities outside the school.

That’s one of the recommendations contained in a report compiled by the Florida Gubernatorial Task Force for University Campus Safety. Gov. Charlie Crist established the task force in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings. The group conducted six public hearings and took testimony from 83 people.

The report makes 63 recommendations for improving safety and security on Florida’s college campuses. Among them:

•Campuses and communities should focus more attention and resources on preventing mental-health issues.

•Each college should ensure that its law enforcement or campus security agency is well-trained, well-equipped and adequately staffed.

•The state university system should work with law-enforcement officials to develop a standard for the minimum amount of officers on a campus and the recommended number of officers per 1,000 campus population.

•Each campus should incorporate Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design strategies for any facility upgrade or new construction.

The entire report is on the web at www.dcf.state.fl.us/campusSecurity/docs/finalReport052407.pdf.

Va. Community Colleges to Evaluate Safety

The Virginia Community College system has created a statewide task force to evaluate emergency-preparedness procedures in light of the April 16 massacre on the Blacksburg campus of Virginia Tech.

"The apparent randomness of the Virginia Tech tragedy is among its most troubling aspects," says Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. "Through our 23 colleges, we serve more than 230,000 people. It is only prudent that we examine our emergency response capabilities and ensure that our campuses are as safe as they can be."

The task force says it will review emergency preparedness, communication technologies, policies and the current response plans for each of the system’s 40 campus locations. It will report its findings to the Virginia Community College State Board in January 2008.

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