News from OSDFS

Webcast Focuses on School Safety

Shortly after the White House Conference on School Safety, the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (OSDFS) hosted a webcast focused on school safety and emergency planning. The hourlong discussion is archived and available for viewing online. Joining Deborah Price and William Modzeleski were presenters Edward Clarke (formerly with Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland), Willie Freeman (Newark Public Schools), and Pegi McEvoy (Seattle Public Schools) who each spoke of the practices they implemented as safety and security administrators at various school districts.

Emergency management, whether in response to school violence or a natural disaster, requires careful preparation that begins with collaboration. School administrators are able to generate more comprehensive and effective plans by working with representatives from public health, mental health, law enforcement, public safety, emergency management, and the local government. Discussion from the webcast focuses on taking an all hazards approach (one that addresses all types of emergency or crisis) and one that considers the four phases of emergency management. Some of the suggestions generated during this discussion include the following:

Prevention and Mitigation

• Use the environment to help prevent crime or crisis as best you can. Consider controlled access, lighting, blind spots, and keeping facilities clean and well maintained.

• Conduct facilities and school climate assessments.

• Make repairs to damaged structures on campus.

• Consider implementing anti-bullying and other wellness programs to promote a safe social environment.

• Update the school communications plans and procedures.


• Develop community partnerships so school administrators know the people they will work with during a crisis situation.

• Conduct drills (meetings, tabletops, full-scale exercises).

• Engage parents during the planning process. Let them know what to expect during an emergency, where their children can be picked up, and where to find information.

• Develop alternate communications procedures in case the primary system is not working.

• Establish policy for locating teachers and staff in the case of events that occur after-hours.

• Establish off-site storage for important data.


• Have both district-level and school-level plans accessible.

• Assess the situation and choose appropriate action quickly.

• Notify public safety, emergency responders, and the school crisis response team at appropriate times.

• Be prepared to evacuate or lock down the school if necessary.

• Expect to be surprised.

• Allow for flexibilty as the situation develops.

• Keep emergency “go-kits” stocked with supplies, student rosters, and parent contact information.

• Conduct an after-action debriefing to discuss what happened, responses, and what improvements could be made.


• Restore educational operations as appropriate considering physical or structural damage; business and fiscal operations; and psychological and emotional needs.

• Establish family liaisons to share information.

• Reach out to fi rst responders.

• Recognize that recovery takes time and people heal at their own pace.

• Use an established plan for securing and managing donations.

Think of the emergency management plan as a living document. Update it, share it, and practice it.

To view the webcast and download the accompanying PowerPoint presentation, visit

REMS Publishes Helpful Hints OSDFS and the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center created a series of publications for school districts to improve the emergency management practices within their school communities. This series, called Helpful Hints, provides key emergency preparedness topics to REMS grantees and non-grantee schools. Each brief document will focus on an issue of interest to school emergency managers. There are currently six publications in this series, with topics such as updating emergency response plans, conducting exercises to test plans, and creating emergency “go-kits.”

To read the full account of this crisis event and the others in the series called LessonsLearned, visit the REMS Web site at
and click on the Publications link.