Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sensible School Safety

School District 51's desire to partner with the Grand Junction Regional Communication Center for emergency notification services, reported in yesterday's Sentinel, is a welcome development for those who desire collaborative partnerships across government boundaries.

During a time when the District is taking heat over some of its other ideas for cutting costs, this proposal makes sense, not only for sensible management of fiscal resources but also the effective management of official information and direction going out to parents, students, and others whenever an emergency situation occurs at a District 51 facility.

Coordinating access to the dispatch center's notification technology, when combined with processes that allow for proper authorization and authentication, as well as the training and orientation of personnel, will go a long way toward the dissemination of information in accordance with best practices. This means information that is concise, meaningful, and provides proper direction to those impacted by the emergency.

There are too many past examples of incomplete or conflicting information related to an emergency response coming from schools in this area and elsewhere. Centrally coordinating these notifications through our area's emergency communications professionals will help to assure that the dissemination of information trickles down from an established command structure, whether that information comes via text messages, phone calls, or the mass media.
Making the system accessible through local public safety will also likely assure that information is disseminated through a unified command, incorporating all community stakeholders that may be impacted by a school emergency.

District 51 Safety Coordinator Tim Leon, a former School Resource Officer with two Grand Valley police departments, was quoted as mentioning the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting incident as an impetus for the District's interest in a centralized means of generating emergency alerts.

That tragedy also galvanized America's university community in a way not seen previously, including Mesa State, which touts its own emergency notification system on its website. There was unfortunately no mention in the Sentinel story about the college's capabilities, and whether or not they have a similar partnership in place with public safety communications. Given that Mesa State's campus security services are provided by the GJPD, that's hopefully a good bet.

Best wishes to the parties involved for an uneventful transition to what will likely be a fine example of collaboration in action.

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