The Seaford School District hosted a 60-hour state-run emergency planning seminar, where together with Levittown and Wantagh school officials, they participated in mock emergency scenarios and preparedness training for how to best respond to a variety of emergencies.
The Multi-Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools course, presented by the New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, was recommended to Seaford officials by their outside security consulting firm — Covert Investigations.
The goal of the free, two-and-a-half day training seminar was to give members of the three districts’ School safety teams — made up of central office and building administrators, teachers, and facilities and security staff — ideas to enhance existing protocols. Attendees learned ways to refine or develop an all-hazards school Emergency Response Plan (ERP) that engages the whole community and meets NYS regulatory mandates. They also learned best practices for school security and emergency management coordination.
The seminar was held in the Seaford Middle School library from May 8-10.
“In an effort to review and refine our safety practices, our team attended the multi-hazard emergency planning course,” said Dr. Adele Pecora said. “Following this valuable training, our building safety teams will meet to discuss strategies and protocols learned in the course, which was extremely effective. The series of table-top exercises highlighted the need for administrators and others to receive this training.”
Questions such as “Where would the emergency management coordinators meet if the school building were unsafe?” and “Where would students go for safety?” were among questions district official’s had to answer.
The school officials participated in several school emergency simulations. They played the roles of the people who would be involved, such as the superintendent, principal and school nurse, and worked together to decide how each situation should be handled.
“The multi-hazard emergency training allowed our district’s administrative team to review our emergency plans and apply them to real world situations,” Wantagh Superintendent John McNamara said in a statement. “The time spent collaborating with other districts and experts in this area, was certainly time well spent. The team from New York State’s Office of Emergency Management provided an excellent lens to examine our emergency planning.
In the wake of the recent attack in Parkland, Florida, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stepped up actions to better protect the nation’s schools against gun violence and other potential threats. DHS conducts training, exercises, and preparedness activities year-round to increase the security of schools across the country.
The May 8-10 seminar was created by the state’s Safety Improvement Team for Schools, a cooperation of four state agencies including the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, New York State Police, State Education Department and Division of Criminal Justice Services.
Program coordinator Janice Severson said in a released statement that changes in society require ever-evolving safety plans.
“We give them practical tools that are best practices nationally and internationally so they can use these assets that are already in their buildings to make safety better,” she said. “This is exposure to ideas that they can bring back to their schools and implement as they see fit.”
Severson stressed the importance of “accountability for all persons” and said the state’s requirement that schools take attendance is beneficial for many reasons. In the event of an emergency, that can provide first responders with valuable information about who is and isn’t accounted for.
Seaford administrators present included Superintendent Dr. Adele Pecora, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction John Striffolino, principals Scott Bersin, Thomas Burke, Debra Emmerich and Dan Smith, Director of Security Don Barto, high school head custodian John Wach, middle school guidance counselor Stacey Ranzie, teacher Margaret Glancy and incoming facilities director Russell Costa.
Wantagh’s McNamara was joined at the training by Adriana Silver, Assistant Superintendent for Business, Marty Abrahms, Director of Facilities and all Wantagh school principals.
From Levittown Schools, Toni McDonald, Superintenden; Bill Pastore, Assistant Superintendent; Chris Milano, Facilities Director; Brian McDonough, Security; Jami Anspach, Assistant Principal; Jeanmarie Wink, Principal; Debbie Rifkin, Assistant Superintendent; Jordan Margolis, Assistant Director of Special Education; and Chris Letts, Chairperson of Athletics participated in the training.