The tragic events that occurred earlier this year in Charleston, sadly remind us that no place is completely safe and invulnerable to the many threats we face in today’s society. Even after Columbine and Virginia Tech, it was hard to believe or even merely comprehend that an elementary school, full of young, innocent children with bright futures, would ever become subject to such violence. Then as a nation in 2012, we witnessed the horrific and unimaginable events as they unfolded at Sandy Hook. I don’t mention these historic occurrences and heartbreaking tragedies to increase fear, but with intentions to increase both public awareness and community preparedness to the threats we face and are subject to daily as a country. It is now more important than ever to have emergency plans in place and to train on such plans, so that when the unthinkable happens, we are prepared to respond appropriately and effectively as a community.
Schools are such an integral part of our local community, we must improve and expand our preparedness and response capabilities at both the individual school level, as well as overall school districts. Accreditation organizations, general statutes and system-wide policies typically develop mandates and establish new guidelines and requirements, particularly following a major event or specific incident as a reactionary measure. Following certain events, accreditation standards are adjusted to reflect latest trends, “news-worthy” events and lessons learned. This can been seen in the healthcare setting with The Joint Commission Standards and in the higher education setting, with the Clery Act. In North Carolina pending legislation (NC HB 97) includes and suggests similar requirements pertaining to emergency preparedness for local school systems in our state, which I believe is a step in the right direction if implemented correctly, even if it may be a reaction to the numerous events we have experienced across the nation in recent years.
Let’s not wait post-event, after it’s too late or even after it’s mandated by general statute. Let’s not wait until we are required to “check a box” just for the sake of fulfilling a standard. Let’s educate, plan and train now to get a head of the curve. Not only to get ahead of the curve for potential requirement purposes, but let’s be better prepared now to increase the safety and wellbeing of our children because it’s the right thing to do. Our children today, will soon be our leaders tomorrow.
Jason Stogner is a Principal Member of Crisis Focus, LLC, a full service crisis management and emergency planning firm. He has a wide breadth of experience in Emergency Management ranging from Higher Education to Healthcare. Follow him on Twitter.