District reviews emergency action plan
Posted on 08/10/2018

Planning for the new school year includes more than getting buildings, bus routes, meals and schedules ready. Recently, the District Incident Management Team, along with 11 local agencies, tested their situational preparedness.

Law enforcement, emergency response agencies, district leadership and school principals simulated an active assailant scenario that included mass casualties, family reunification and emergency communication center coordination.

This exercise provided an opportunity for the agencies to share information and discuss command and coordination operations, promote preparedness, and confirm district plans, policies, procedures and systems. This discussion helped refine the emergency management plan.

“While we hope we never need to institute this action plan, we know it is effective if administrators, emergency personnel and school staff understand their role and responsibilities. This will help execute the plan to ensure the well-being of all persons involved,” said Scott Howat, OCPS Chief Communications Officer.

This is OCPS’ fifth year testing its response plan for an unexpected situation. Past scenarios ranged from weather related emergencies to a workplace violence situation. These types of comprehensive emergency plans and procedures assist staff trainings and expand the district’s capabilities.

Schools also conduct emergency drills and tabletop exercises to practice and review their capacity. While procedures are standardized across the district, each school individually tailors its plan to address the specific needs of students.

To date, OCPS has spent $20.3 million on hardening school campuses (based on the recommendations of the 2014 Safe Haven Security assessment). The specific details are confidential and considered an added security measure for the students and employees. Per statute, OCPS will not disclose specifics of school security; however, if a parent has a specific concern regarding a protocol, he should speak with the school principal individually.

In March 2018, Safe Haven performed an updated assessment and gauged how OCPS strategies compare with current best practices. The consultants also reviewed parent, student and other stakeholders suggestions.

“In our opinion, OCPS has aggressively, proactively and professionally confronted the topic of school safety in a manner that stands out to our analysts as among the most impressive efforts of this type we have seen during our assessment projects for more than 6,750 K-12 schools,” Safe Haven wrote in its review.

With the approval of the budget on Sept. 11, the school board will invest an additional $11.6 million on safety and security measures. Plus, the state is providing $9.1 million for mental health and additional school resource officers. The district is in negotiations to supplement SRO funds for increased staffing.

To enhance school safety, OCPS will continue to focus on hardening school facilities, emergency preparations, preventative measures and mental health services.

The following outside agencies participated in the scenario review.

Apopka Fire Department

Apopka Police Department

Florida Division of Emergency Management

Orange County Emergency Management

Orange County Fire and Rescue Department

Orange County Sheriff’s Office

Orlando Fire Department

Orlando Office of Emergency Management

Orlando Police Department

Seminole County Sheriff’s Office

University of Central Florida, Rollins College and Valencia College