Study Says Schools Ill-Prepared for Emergencies
May 31, 2007 -- A new study released this week says the nation's public schools lack the equipment and expertise necessary to deal with a range of emergencies, including terrorist attacks, natural disasters, or biohazard catastrophies. The study, conducted by the Government Accountability Office, examined school emergency preparedness nationwide and found that many schools are insufficiently prepared because they have not trained and integrated their response plans with local first responders, hospitals, or their city governments.
No federal laws require school districts to have emergency plans, but 32 states have laws or policies that do. In addition, colleges and universities aren't required to have emergency plans at all.
While many districts have developed multihazard emergency management strategies, some of those plans do not address federally recommended practices. For example, over half of the districts studied lack a plan to continue educating students in the event of an extended school closure, as might happen during a community-level outbreak of influenza.
A report from the National Research Council looks at ways to keep schools safe during emergencies. Deadly Lessons: Understanding Lethal School Violence discusses potential causes of school rampages and suggests possible forms of prevention. Another report, Frameworks for Higher Education in Homeland Security, examines current and proposed education programs in homeland security at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and the role of higher education in this area.
The Future of Emergency Care, a series of reports by the Institute of Medicine, considers the nation's emergency medical system and how well it is prepared to handle surges from disasters such as hurricanes, bombings, or disease outbreaks.