A U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funded training course, developed by The University of Findlay, allows schools throughout Ohio to address key safety and security factors using an all-hazards approach.
Offered by UF’s All Hazards Training Center, the 16-hour course teaches collaborative strategies to key decision makers from schools, law enforcement, emergency response agencies, local government and the community to better plan, prepare, communicate, respond and recover from a school-based incident.
For K-12 schools that need improvements, the UF course is the only one the Ohio Department of Education and Ohio Board of Regents are recommending as an option on https://saferschools.ohio.gov.
Schools must have a plan in place, and update it regularly, according to a school safety law enacted in 2012.
But even schools with plans that have been deemed adequate have also been encouraged to take the course to enhance their existing crisis management strategies.
As a member of the DHS Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium, UF received a $704,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) in December 2014 for this statewide training initiative. This funding will provide for the delivery of approximately 90 classes.
Minster Local School District officials were some of the first to take the course.
“We had done some preliminary training prior to our course, like ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate), and we already had a few of the pieces of a new plan in place. We just needed to get everyone on the same page and this course did that for us,” said district Superintendent Brenda Boeke.
“The communication between our local law enforcement and first responders has increased because of this course,” Boeke said. “We feel more secure in knowing our responsibilities and the responsibilities of the first responders in the event an emergency takes place.”
Providing training to keep school children safe has been an All Hazards Training Center focus since 2002, said training center Executive Director Randy Van Dyne.
“We take it very seriously, and we know that better trained school officials and first responders will not only improve our communities’ responses to school-related events, but will also provide them with the tools to help prevent such occurrences,” said Van Dyne. “To date, we have trained approximately 11,000 school officials and first responders through offering 356 school safety and security classes in 46 states.”
The course customizes training for each school district. It compares school plans and protocols with national standards that the state law follows to identify strengths and areas of improvement, and scenario-based activities allow participants to practice their interoperable skills to ensure collaborative strategies are in place for effective crises prevention, response and recovery.
Scott Lowry, a retired Findlay Police Department lieutenant, is the lead trainer for this and other school safety and security courses that the All Hazards Training Center offers. Other members of the trainer pool have backgrounds ranging from school resource officers to former Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Secret Service agents.
“We’re finding that some (Ohio schools) don’t really have much of a plan at all, and some have excellent plans, but the majority fall in between,” said Rick Zwayer, chief of operations for Ohio Homeland Security’s Strategic Analysis and Information Center, which is assisting the Ohio Department of Education with reviewing each school’s plan for compliance.
For more information on the state’s school safety emphasis, and to sign your school up for the UF safety course being endorsed, visit https://saferschools.ohio.gov.
For more information about UF’s All Hazards Training Center and its classes, visit http://www.findlayallhazards.com/.