Unified School Response
Today’s challenges for law enforcement are much different from those of the past. Just as the challenges have changed, so too must the approach taken to confront them. Years ago, law enforcement agencies worried mostly about preventing crime and responding to local emergencies.
Today, there is a need for collaboration among responders with the need to expand planning efforts locally, regionally, and nationally.
In response to this need, the Cass-Clay Unified School Response is a group of schools and law enforcement agencies who have adopted unified emergency response protocols and adapted them to their unique situations. The counties involved are Cass County, North Dakota and Clay County, Minnesota. The goal was to develop a unified command organization operating under similar emergency protocols. The idea was developed in 2006 by Lowell Wolff , Fargo Public Schools and a member of the Fargo Police Department SRO team. Since 2006, the concept has evolved into a multi-jurisdictional response plan that protects over 29,000 students in 16 districts.
One of the most crucial components of the multi-jurisdictional response is a unified vocabulary and unified response to emergency situations. Unified school response requires that all responders are able to work as a team in the event of a local emergency. By utilizing a unified vocabulary, the training is productive and the ability to work as a unified command is fully realized.
A second component of the unified school response system is equipping each teacher in the district and region-wide with a had held flip-chart detailing the basic response to emergency situations. This aid details the response to evacuation, shelter-in-place (HAZ MAT and weather emergencies), bomb threat and lockdown. Classroom teachers and aides are expected to understand the use of the response tool and use it in the event of an emergency. More detailed responses are located in the District’s Emergency Response Plan found in each classroom emergency kit.
A third component is ongoing training. Training is provided each August for agencies in both Cass and Clay Counties. The training includes table-top discussions as well as seminars by experts in school safety. Most recently, presenters Bernie James J.D. and Lt. Col. Dave Grossman have been guest speakers at the training. Training is also ongoing in the school buildings themselves as administrators are required to perform several security drills each year. The schools are also formally evaluated on a rotating schedule by area patrol officers, paramedics, firefighters, administrators and SROs. The SROs have been intimately involved in preparing their schools for emergencies. Many have participated in preparing security evaluations, including CPTED evaluations to ensure the school is as safe as it can be.
When disaster strikes, emergency responders are often galvanized into action from multiple jurisdictions. Through combining training efforts and sharing resources, all agencies in the area will reap the collective benefits. This model is believed to be one of the only multi-jurisdictional, multiple county collaboration of its kind in the United States.