Sussex Countian
  • Delaware officials move forward with comprehensive school safety plan

  • Two Delaware school districts have completed implementation of a web-based portal that builds school safety plans, and the clock is ticking for remaining First State public institutions to do the same.
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  • Two Delaware school districts have completed implementation of a web-based portal that builds school safety plans, and the clock is ticking for remaining First State public institutions to do the same.
    “I know this is a lot of work, but all our principals and superintendents have to do is look at the faces of these great young kids and know that their safety is our most important responsibility,” said Gov. Jack Markell at a Dec. 11 news conference at Laurel Intermediate Middle School.
    The Delaware Omnibus School Safety Act, signed into law in 2012 by Markell, mandates that all schools, districts and first responders work with the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security to develop a comprehensive school safety plan. The first phase of this plan, the Emergency Response Information Portal, is a central repository for all Delaware public and charter school safety plans. ERIP is designed to outline safety protocols for various emergency incidents, identify school safety teams and store building plans, site maps and interior photos.
    The Laurel and Polytech school districts were selected by the DSHS as its beta, or test, districts. In the spring, district employees received the required training and began building their school safety plans in ERIP. Now, in those districts, that process is completed.
    Lewis Schiliro, secretary of the DSHS, said the schools now have crucial and detailed information stored in ERIP including building photos, floor plans, local hazards, emergency contacts and best practices.
    “This vital information is accessible to school officials and their safety teams as well as our emergency response community,” Schiliro said.
    Susan Whaley, principal of Laurel Intermediate Middle School, said when she started her teaching career in 1989, her goal, like many educators, was to focus on teaching students.
    “Unfortunately we have since had to take on the challenge of making sure our schools are safe and secure,” Whaley said. “Today, we are very lucky to have ERIP, which will be a very valuable tool in our school.”
    John Ewald, superintendent of the Laurel School District, said ERIP, based on the National Incident Management System, creates a “common language” for district employees and first responders.
    “The portal allows us to organize and simplify how we plan for safety and emergency events in our district,” Ewald said, adding the information stored on ERIP is currently available to the Laurel Police and Fire departments.
    Ewald said the schools’ building layouts have been divided into grids, making it easier for emergency responders to navigate.
    “Teams coming into the situation could identify, for example, area A7 to pick exactly where the emergency has occurred and how rescue personnel needs to respond,” he said.
    The portal contains training resources that demonstrate to school staff how to respond in specific situations, such as an active shooter or a bomb threat.
    Page 2 of 2 - ERIP also has a function that allows schools to manage and monitor their fire, shelter-in-place and lockdown drills. School officials log on to record each time a drill occurs and also provides a summary of the event.
    Ewald added that ERIP can be accessed from smart phones and tablets.
    Addressing the children at Laurel Intermediate, Markell said the impetus behind all of these safety precautions is to ensure they can go as far as their potential will take them.
    “If you don’t feel safe, it’s a lot more challenging to learn, pay attention and focus on your academics,” he said.
    Schiliro said it’s the DSHS’s goal to have ERIP up and running in each of Delaware’s 228 schools by summer 2014.
    “The legislation originally called for a five-year time frame; but after the shootings at Sandy Hook, the governor pushed it up to two years,” he said. “The portal is now available to every school so it’s just a matter of working with the districts to upload their safety plans and start training programs.”
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