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Workshop Focuses on Improving Safety and Security of Schools

Friday, December 06, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Pam Towns
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Representatives from the State of Connecticut School Safety Infrastructure Council (SSIC), the Katy (Texas) Independent School District (ISD), the St. Clair County (Michigan) Office of Homeland Security/Emergency Management (HSEM), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Department of Education, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the American Institute of Architects and the National Institute of Building Sciences convened in Washington, D.C., November 14-15 to attend the School Safety Tool Development Workshop at the National Institute of Building Sciences.

The tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School greatly moved the nation and indicated a need to better prepare schools for a whole series of undesirable events. The DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) Resilient Systems Division (RSD), which sponsored the Workshop, is currently working to develop design guidance that helps the construction community to design and build better schools and establishes an objective basis for decision-making that all schools can use to help create a safe environment for students and teachers.

Following last year’s Sandy Hook shooting, the Connecticut Congress formed the SSIC to establish a process for assessing schools for security risk. DHS/S&T/RSD, which worked closely with the State of Connecticut and testified for both the Sandy Hook Commission and SSIC, is currently collaborating with the SSIC, Katy ISD and St. Clair HSEM, to prepare this risk assessment process to meet the needs of the educational system.

During the two-day event, participants reviewed the guidance manual and methodology currently in development and worked to establish requirements for a new integrated rapid visual screening (IRVS) module to automate the process, with the goal of making the tool available for schools around the country. It is expected that the completed tool will fulfill a need shared by schools nationwide and, as a result, could have important and far reaching benefits.

In addition to the Workshop, the SSIC, Katy ISD and St. Clair HSEM delegates also participated in a November 14 informational meeting at DHS, sharing their experiences and lessons learned on school shootings and school safety challenges. That meeting was attended by Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy; DHS Secretary (Acting) Rand Beers; Undersecretary (Acting) of DHS S&T Dr. Daniel Gerstein; many other DHS managers and staff; and representatives from a number of other federal agencies and organizations interested in school safety.

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