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Lessons Learned from the Sandy Hook Tragedy

America collectively mourns the violent deaths of 20 children and 6 adults whose lives were lost to a crazed madman who gained entry and opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. As policymakers prepare to adequately and swiftly respond, educators, parents and emergency management professionals across the country wonder what can be done to make schools safe.

A recent article in the Huffington Post summarized the dilemma:
“Short of placing an iron dome over our school buildings or turning them into police bunkers, the only thing we can do is create spaces for children that are as safe and supportive as possible. And so while it is encouraging that national policymakers are intent on addressing the larger aspects of American culture that make acts of mass violence like this all too common, the only things individual schools and communities can do are the sorts of things Sandy Hook had already done: establish clear safety protocols, lock their doors once the school day begins, and be vigilant in their efforts to keep children safe.”

Although, at this point, more questions remain than can be accurately addressed, schools and businesses alike should take stock and examine their own emergency plans and strategize about how they would respond — not only during active shooting incidences — but also before, during and after other potential emergency situations.

In a blog posted in EmergencyManagement.com, Editor Jim McKay shared this observation:

“The chilling fact is it’s happened before and it will happen again. One danger here is that we always prepare for the last crisis, so we are all preparing for Hurricane Sandy and the Newtown, Conn., massacre. Both are devastating, but employers have to prepare for all hazards — bomb threats, suspicious packages, bullying at work and bullying at school are examples.”

Training over 400 million square feet, the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services provides easily-accessible emergency preparedness to tenants with online safety modules about fires; earthquakes; bomb threats; emergency action plan procedures such as floor warden training; medical emergencies; power outages; nuclear, biological, chemical and hazardous material incidents; and severe weather such as hurricanes, tornadoes and floods.

Emergency Management.com reports that “for every one organization that is well planned and trained and exercised, there are 10 that are not. Every employee has a legal right to review their employers’ emergency plan (according to) federal law.”

Most pundits agree the problem can be attributed to failure to practice. Unfortunately, most businesses, including schools, come up with some sort of an Emergency Action Plan because of OSHA regulations. But many foolishly assume they won’t ever have to execute the plan. So they fail to run drills.

Research has proven that tabletop exercises and full-scale exercises done with and without emergency services are effective preparatory tools. So the best thing you can do as a business owner, building manager, administrator of a school, lead at a governmental agency or a parent is to make sure everyone under your care understands the plan and regularly participates in emergency exercises.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, check out the Allied Universal Training System by Universal/Fire Life Safety Services. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system on the market.

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