In virtually every single community in which a school district functions, there are a multitude of organizations and agencies, both public and private, that really should be included in any program development process. Bringing together all the agencies and organizations that would need to respond in the event of an incident at even one of those schools in a particular district, were it to occur, is far too often problematic. Coordinating, networking, scheduling, building mutual respect for individual differences, accepting and working through conflict, and establishing trust beforehand would be major undertakings in, and among, themselves, turf issues and politics not-withstanding.
COLUMBINE HIGH SCHOOL RESPONSE:
The response at Columbine High School was based on, and conducted in accordance with, standard Incident Command System protocols at the time, resulting in what many consider to be a "delayed response" that could have saved some lives if the responders had been allowed to go in right away (it's our understanding there were some law enforcement officers, one of whom was a parent of a student inside the school, that were physically restrained from going in by themselves, right or wrong). The EMTs who rescued so many outside the school itself actually went in under fire not initially knowing the area had not yet been "secured". When they realized it, they decided to go in anyway. Those who were rescued are here today because of the EMT’s heroism.
PLATTE CANYON HIGH SCHOOL RESPONSE:
Platte Canyon High School was a hostage situation that "required" negotiations between law enforcement and the "perp" that lasted for hours. Unfortunately, this tragedy resulted in Emily Keyes losing her life. The response at Platte Canyon High School was based in large part on lessons learned from the response at Columbine. One of those lessons is to “enter, engage, and neutralize” the threat regardless of what may be encountered along the way - injured students and/or faculty specifically.
Each situation warranted their own unique responses to the incident. Both have served to "enhance" future response actions via "lessons learned". Every single emergency and/or disaster event that occurs, regardless of whether it's at a school or has a much broader affect, has their own unique characteristics requiring responses to them based on an evaluation/assessment by first response organizations. That's why we advocate for nothing being taken off the table as far as planning for any kind of event beforehand is concerned. If the planning group decides together a particular planning issue doesn’t merit the time, effort, and/or cost, then, and only then, should it be taken off the table.
- mutual aid,
- memorandums of understanding,
- emergency public information dissemination responsibilities,
- establishment of joint information centers,
- implementation of a unified command approach to response,
- use of the Incident Command System during emergency operations,
- and Emergency Operation Center and Incident Command System interface.
A whole lot of technical emergency management jargon that must be explained in more detail and understood by participants unfamiliar with them during the program design process.
The P♦E♦A♦C♦E Challenge:
If there is eventually enough interest shown, the ultimate goal is to organize a P♦E♦A♦C♦E Challenge group. It doesn't have to be called a P♦E♦A♦C♦E Challenge group. It doesn't have to be called anything at all. The goal is take input, ideas, suggestions, and recommendations from people like you, and approach schools in a more "organized" manner.
Our approach, if you want to call it that, is to try to do things a little "bass-ackwards" and organize first, approach schools second. Our experience has been schools, in general, are reluctant to embrace things like this for many reasons (we won't go into detail here). But if the "community" organizes and is able to show the schools they really can help, they'll hopefully be more receptive. Failing that, community groups can always play the "legal mandate" card as a last resort.
Determining your P♦E♦A♦C♦E Challenge group's demographic, specifically how to determine which school(s) you'll want to begin with, will help you to assess your "landscape" in preparation for your community taking the P♦E♦A♦C♦E Challenge and making things happen.