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December 19th, 2012

K-12 schools in serious need of strict government oversight

YORKTOWN HEIGHTS - Emergency management expert Larry Eidelman stressed today the need for tough state and federal mandates on how schools prepare and respond to emergencies.

"The 800 pound gorilla in the room is that violence is the number one cause of serious injury or death in our nation’s schools yet there are only detailed mandates for fire drills and not lockout, lock down and other emergency management protocols. Ironically there has not been a single school death due to fire in decades, due in large part to schools repeated practice of fire drills year after year", said Eidelman.

In January of 2000, Governor George E. Pataki signed into law the Project SAVE (Safe Schools Against Violence in Education) legislation, to promote a safer schools within New York State. Unfortunately, the document falls significantly short in providing schools with specific guidance on:

• When and how to conduct full scale safety and security audits of facilities as well as suggested mitigation steps for identified hazards and loopholes.

• Development of effective emergency plans, school and district emergency response teams.

• Frequency and standardized curriculum for training for staff, administrators’ students and even parents.

• Techniques and benchmarks to determine the effectiveness of plans, capabilities of staff and the overall safety of the school population.

"Schools have essentially been left to figure out how to engage in proper emergency management on their own with little guidance on how to do so or understand they have done enough. Schools will continue to be vulnerable until there are high standards, detailed criteria and uniformity in how Districts protect the school population", said Eidelman.

Larry Eidelman is managing partner of Altaris Group, LLC. He is a veteran of law enforcement and sits on the Westchester County Emergency Management Committee. He has nearly 20 years of Emergency Management experience and is currently working directly with numerous school districts around the Hudson Valley to minimize safety/security risks and strengthen their staff’s ability to successfully manage emergencies within their schools.

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