Mitigation Phase – Current State: Harnett County Schools, North Carolina
Harnett County Schools in North Carolina have twenty seven schools with a population of about 19,704 students and 1,234 teachers. In managing and planning for emergency operations health, safety and welfare of both students and staff is given the most significant considerations. The current emergency management plans puts emphasis on prevention with the application of strategies which range from coming up with designs that instill discipline in the schools policies and programs which improve the overall climate of the school (“Harnnet county schools”, n.d.).
Emergencies in the schools include but are not confined to situations such as loss of life of a student or member of staff through an accident, suicide illness or abuse of substances. Then the critical emergencies involve situations such as natural disasters like floods, use of explosives or weapons and fire out breaks. These situations require interagency response that involves law enforcers and agencies offering emergency services. The schools have come up with District level crisis teams and a local crisis team for each school (“Harnnet county schools”, n.d.).
In the mitigation phase the schools leadership and law enforcement officials have taken steps to prevent and mitigate disasters. In this phase the schools trains students as well as staff to share information concerning any threats they may have observed to prevent a crisis before it happens. The schools are also involved in collecting violence data relating to the school as well as school facilities (U.S. Office of Safe and Drug-free Schools, U.S. Department of Education, 2007).
Currently to mitigate emergencies, the schools have been able to carry out certain initiatives that assist in preventing or reducing the impact of certain emergencies. This has been through establishment of weapons free zones whereby weapons resulting to violent offences are prohibited in schools. The schools are required to make reports to law officials concerning violent offenders. There is funding of officers who provide the schools with appropriate resources that assist in mitigating crisis (Cooper and Beatty, 2006). There exists a tip line for the schools were students can anonymously report any issues of threats concerning themselves or the school. The schools safe plans are strengthened with the right policies and resources to ensure safety of students and staff. Suspended or expelled students are recommended to join alternative schools where their behaviors can be corrected and they are modeled to become better students. There is the development of critical incident response kit programs that dictate the manner in which some crisis are handled. Establishment of quick deployed training which trains officers who are supposed to arrive first on a scene of violence in the schools as well as provision of training to schools in dealing with multi hazard issues (Cooper and Beatty, 2006).
Some of these already established plans have been successful while others require improvements. For instance, the strengthened school safe plans have made the schools a safe place for children and students are less likely to become victims of violence in schools than when they are away from schools as a result of violent offences committed by fellow students. However the safe plans are not very effective since schools face a new threat from terrorists who can target the children in schools and the plans need improvements to cater for protection from terrorists (Paton, 2010). The schools should also increase their preparedness in handling natural as well as manmade disasters like bad weather or chemical explosions from industries. New age of complex and more serious threats are likely to be experienced by the schools and therefore the plans require frequent evaluations and updates so as to meet the requirements of new disasters that may happen (Cooper and Beatty, 2006).
In ensuring continuous strengthening of the schools safe plan, assistance is required from state agencies in accessing and analyzing school violence data that is timely. Such agencies are the State of Board Education, State of Bureau of Investigation and Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention which can provide statistics that help in coming up with an effective school plan. The schools can also establish both at the district and local levels a program that involves analyzing of violence data. It collects, analyzes and delivers appropriate information to the Schools at District and local level as well as to the local law enforcement (Cooper and Beatty, 2006).
The established tip lines which are accompanied by campaigns to create awareness among students work well. These lines allow students to make reports confidentially and law enforcers are able to investigate their allegations ranging from possession of illegal substances, firearms or other weapons. This feature should be expanded such that students, teachers, non teaching staff and parents can offer information on possible threats. The expansion should involve increase of public awareness such that more people are involved and frequent evaluations are carried out. State Bureau of Investigations and other law enforcement officials can provide more expertise to improve the functionality of the line (Cooper and Beatty, 2006).
There is limited assessment of threats, training and provision of technical assistance in security assessment. Different kind of assessments should be conducted by school administrators and law enforcing officials. The assessments can be categorized into two where one assessment focuses on internal behavior while the other is threat assessment within the body of student. The schools should therefore get continuous threat assessment training of their personnel as well as receive technical assistance in security assessment (Simpson and Hancock, 2009).
The current plans in the mitigation phase are offering tangible solutions in preventing threats, however continuous evaluations and improvements are necessary so as to handle upcoming and more complex problems in the new age.
Cooper, R., & Beatty, B. (2006). Keeping North Carolina schools safe and secure. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Departments of Justice and Crime Control and Public Safety.
Harnnet county schools. (n.d.). Crisis management. Retrieved http://www.harnett.k12.nc.us/
Paton, D. (2010). Emergency Planning: Integrating community development, community resilience and hazard mitigation. Journal of the American Society of Professional Emergency Managers, 7, 109-118.
Simpson, N., & Hancock, P..(2009). Fifty years of operational research and emergency response. The Journal of the Operational Research Society: Special Issue: Milestones in OR, 60(S1), S126-S139. Retrieved March 4, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 1677944771).
U.S. Office of Safe and Drug-free Schools, U.S. Department of Education (2007). Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A guidebook for schools and community. The Office of Safe and Drug-free Schools. Retrieved February 2008 from http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety/emergencyplan/crisisplanning.pdf