A state office that works with schools on ensuring their students are safe is recommending all Maine schools review their emergency operations plans following Tuesday’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which at least 19 students and two teachers died.
Jonathan Shapiro, director of the Maine School Safety Center at the state Department of Education, said Maine schools should ensure their emergency operations plans are updated and everyone, including local public safety officials, knows what to do in the event of an emergency.
That review can also serve as a refresher “to make sure it’s top of mind and they’re well prepared to address any situation that occurs,” he said.
Shapiro’s advice came the day after the deadliest U.S. school shooting in a decade. The Maine School Safety Center formed in the spring of 2020 as a one-stop clearinghouse to help schools improve their safety infrastructure and culture. Shapiro is a retired Maine State Police sergeant.
“Good planning and a good working collaboration with safety officials will make your school safe,” Shapiro said. “That’s what we are doing, that’s what we’ve been doing, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
All Maine schools are required to have an emergency operations plan, which outlines how a school will prepare, respond and recover from an emergency, according to Shapiro. The emergencies a school could face could include fires, active shooters or dangerous intruders and extreme weather.
A school’s plan should identify any hazards; outline the responsibilities of staff during various emergencies; explain how school officials will communicate with one another, first responders and parents; and lay out guidelines for how a school community will recover from an emergency, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The school safety center is available to assist any school in reviewing and updating its emergency plan, Shapiro said.