County school officials detail new plan for emergencies

Systemwide coordination is considered rare

September 04, 2002|By Jonathan Rockoff | Jonathan Rockoff,SUN STAFF

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Baltimore County's school system has become one of the first in the country to develop a coordinated, systemwide effort for handling crises in the schools, county and school officials announced yesterday.

Before 9/11, each public school in the county had its own plan for dealing with emergencies.

But now, every school must follow new standards. Under those, schools are told whether to lock their students inside, move them to a secure area nearby or evacuate them in response to 100 kinds of crises, from power failures to hostage situations.

Principals must still decide where to evacuate students. But they must share those plans with senior school officials, police and firefighters so they know where students will be and what schools are doing during a particular emergency.

"We think we're in the best position to be prepared to continue to provide for the care and safety of our schoolchildren," Hairston said during a news conference at Overlea High School held to announce the new guidelines.

Baltimore County's plan was modeled after one in Kentucky.

County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersburger described the heightened emergency planning as an outgrowth of the Sept. 11 attacks, which frightened some parents into rushing to schools to pick up their children.

"In the event that there is a problem, in the event that there is another attack, we on the local level will be ready," Ruppersberger said.

Schools have been given copies of the new "Critical Response and School Emergency Safety Management Guide," and some staff received training. Firefighters are visiting each school to help principals tailor the guidelines to their schools. Next month, more staff will receive training.

"We want the parents to know about the plan and know that their children will be safe," said Dale R. Rauenzahn, the school system's director of student support services.

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