John Jay College’s Center for Private Security and Safety (CPSS) in conjunction with MHA Consulting, a leading resiliency and business continuity consulting firm, and the Town of Newtown, CT, School District facilitated its second tabletop mock disaster exercise on Thursday, May 15 at the Sandy Hook Firehouse on Riverside Road. Anthony Gentile, director of CPSS, who also serves as security advisor for the Newtown Board of Education, provided oversight and expertise in the evaluation of the security measures during the exercises. Close to seventy participants, evaluators and observers participated in the four hour tabletop exercise.
“It is important to establish protocols for decision making at the School District and Emergency Response Team (ERT) levels to ensure proper authority levels are followed for key emergency activities (lock down, shelter in place, evacuation, etc.) as well as to ensure protocols to account for absences/ inability to communicate requiring alternate people to make decisions.” Gentile said.
During the drill, emergency services, school administration and ERTs were able to identify opportunities for improvements to their emergency plans and protocols, which included the need to build common terminology between the schools and emergency services to ensure communication is clear and can be easily understood and further build a strong school district liaison to the Incident Command function of local emergency services personnel.
The exercise presented the participants with a Hazardous Materials Spill at the cross-streets of Queen Street and Churchill Road affecting Hawley Elementary, Newtown Middle School and St. Rose of Lima. The scenario required emergency services and school personnel to address the safety of students using current plans and protocols. Among the successes observed during the drill was the participation and communication between school administration, the affected schools and emergency services personnel. The ERT from each school was able to respond effectively using their training, plans and knowledge of their students and facilities; the Incident Command System (ICS) was used as the basis for managing the event.
Upon completion of the drill, it was established that individual school Emergency Response Teams (ERTs) will continue to train and heighten their capability; each ERT must be trained to work standalone if needed as well as seamlessly integrate with emergency services using the Incident Command System (ICS) as its foundation. Integrated mock disaster exercises will continue to be held with local emergency services personnel at regularly planned intervals to continue to heighten the sophistication of the response to an unplanned event.
The Center for Private Security and Safety is dedicated to professionalization of the private security industry and its safety constituencies in fire and emergency management. The center is designed to developing joint partnerships with both the public and private safety providers and to serving corporate, educational and industrial institutions in need of guidance through best practices and current industry standards at the local, state, national and international level. For more information, visit http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/academics/5528.php.
About John Jay College of Criminal Justice: An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of The City University of New York offers a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to upwards of 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College approaches justice as an applied art and science in service to society and as an ongoing conversation about fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/.