WASHINGTON — As part of National Preparedness Month, which is recognized each September to promote emergency planning, the U.S. Department of Education, along with the U.S. Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services, released a new planning guide to help districts support schools developing and maintaining customized emergency operations plans (EOPs).
The Role of Districts in Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans (District Guide)delivers on an interagency recommendation from the Federal Commission on School Safety’s final reportto provide resources to assist schools and school districts in developing customized school EOPs with their community partners, such as first responders.
“Each of us has an important role to play in keeping our nation’s students, teachers and faculty safe at school,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, the District Guide is a helpful resource for districts as they work with school planning teams creating Emergency Operations Plans that are unique to their school community. We want local leaders to have the resources and support they need to help prevent school violence and effectively respond and recover should tragedy occur.”
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said, “The safety of our nation’s students is one of the highest priorities of this Administration and the Department of Justice. The District Guide is yet another tool for our local school districts to use to keep students, teachers and faculty safe. We will continue to work tirelessly with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to make sure our nation’s schools are protected.”
Elinore F. McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use added, “HHS is pleased to have played a significant role in the President’s Federal Commission on School Safety. Federal departments are working together to ensure that comprehensive school-based systems centered on positive environments, safety and security of students, and recognition of mental health needs are in place across America’s communities.”
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan said, “The release of the District Guide is an important step in our work with the nation’s schools to help districts prevent, mitigate against, respond to, and recover from emergency situations. It’s our intent that this new resource will assist districts in their efforts to strengthen their schools’ resilience and emergency planning processes.”
School EOPs are designed to proactively address a variety of hazards and threats and formalize the roles and responsibilities of those schools, school districts and community partners with responsibilities in school safety, before, during and after possible emergencies and address prevention, mitigation, protection, response and recovery.
The District Guide serves as a complement to the Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans (School Guide) and provides information that can assist school districts in fulfilling both their individual and shared emergency planning responsibilities. Specifically, the District Guidecomplements the earlier School Guide by recommending specific roles and responsibilities for district-level administrators and staffs. Districts’ responsibilities include the following:
- Coordinating with schools and community partners to make EOPs a collaborative effort and help ensure integration with district, local, or regional, state, tribal, and federal agency EOPs.
- Laying out planning parameters for use by schools throughout the entire district.
- Supporting schools at each step as they develop EOPs that address and plan for the wide variety of prioritized hazards and threats specific to their school community’s needs.
The District Guide also contains a checklist of activities and responsibilities for districts that allows them to stay on course and track their progress over time. Core planning teams within school districts can use this guide to inform the development of local policies and procedures related to school EOP development.
In the coming weeks, the agencies will collaborate again to conduct a webinar providing an overview of the District Guide. Hosted by the Department of Education’s Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center, the federal partners will present a one-hour webinar so participants can learn about the key aspects of the District Guide, its relationship to the School Guide, and key planning resources. Watch for future announcements about the webinar along with the following supplementary materials the REMS TA Center created to support the use and implementation of the District Guide recommendations by school districts and their community partners:
- District Guide Fact Sheet. Access this fact sheet to get background information on threats and hazards facing school districts and how they prepare for, respond to, and recover from associated emergencies. In addition, the fact sheet provides an overview of the District Guide format, including an outline of the district core planning team’s role in school EOP development.
- District Guide Specialized Training Package. Use this self-paced training to review how to use theDistrict Guide with core planning teams at your school district. It provides a walkthrough of the guide and offers recommended exercises that teams can use to enhance district emergency management planning. State and district leaders may use this to train their colleagues and planning teams.