Sunday, June 12, 2016

"It’s one of those things where you don’t really know how much you need it until you need it"

So says Rich Yelenich, director of school safety for North Thurston Public Schools, about the news - via the News Tribune - that there was a big "whoops" in the budget that cut the funding for Critical Incident Planning and Mapping System and it will stop operating July 1.

What is that system?

A program that maps Washington’s public schools to assist first responders during shootings and other emergencies.
The statewide emergency preparedness system was created by the Legislature in 2003, after the terrorism attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. 

The software program contains maps, blueprints, building photos and emergency plans for roughly 2,400 public facilities throughout the state, including all the state’s K-12 schools and community colleges. 

According to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, the system has helped police and fire agencies safely evacuate a Vancouver high school during a bomb threat, initiate a lockdown when someone threatened to shoot people inside a Thurston County courthouse, and plan evacuation routes when a warehouse fire threatened chemical storage tanks.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/politics-government/article83235532.html#storylink=cp

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/politics-government/article83235532.html#storylink=c
Apparently, NO one is taking credit/blame for this and boy, the finger-pointing has ensued.  Legislators says it wasn't purposeful cut but that another group, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, did.  Why would that group have "cut" it.
The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs says the state hasn’t been providing enough money to operate the system for some time. For the past few years, the nonprofit has been subsidizing the emergency mapping program with about $55,000 per year of its own funds, said Mitch Barker,the association’s executive director.

That’s partly due to the Legislature’s decision during the recession to fund the program through a surcharge on traffic tickets, rather than using the general fund that pays for most state programs, Barker said. 

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs chose to cut the school mapping program instead of a jail-booking program that notifies victims when their abusers are released, or a program to combat auto theft, which was the original target of the traffic ticket money, Barker said.

“We were faced with watering all three programs down more, and making each of them weaker and weaker and weaker, or cutting a program,” Barker said. “Our decision was we would have to stop providing the mapping oversight and give it back to the state, and they could find a home for it as they chose.”
Back to who is responsible:

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/politics-government/article83235532.html#storylink=cpy
Barker said he and other association officials made it clear to lawmakers the mapping program could get axed if the state didn’t add money.

But legislators said it took them by surprise.
Gee wilikers! Who knew (if not the people who wrote the budget?)

There is no money until perhaps January so parents, just cross those fingers and hope for the best.  Oh wait, we live in the most gun-hungry country in the world so maybe cross fingers on both hands.

Adding to this:
Prepared Response, a Tacoma-based company that operates its Rapid Responder program in 27 states, has never needed to stop and restart the system on a statewide basis before, said CEO Tobey Bryant. Bryant said Washington state has invested $17 million in the program since its inception in 2003.
“It will difficult to re-input the data into the system, absolutely,” Bryant said.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/politics-government/article83235532.html#storylink=cpy
The article notes that not every event uses this technology but it's absolutely important for "large-scale events."  No kidding.
He said it would come in handy, however, during “really large scale events,” such an earthquake or a prolonged hostage situation in which multiple outside agencies are called to assist.
“It’s really something that if it did go away, we would miss just having that confidence, or the security of knowing that information is available,” Yelenich said.
 Like this?
The most recent time the system came in handy during a major emergency was in November, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs officials said, when a school bus in the Monroe School District was stranded due to flooded roads and a fatal accident.

District officials used the emergency alert system to communicate with each other and to notify the bus driver where to take students to safety.

“It worked great,” said district spokeswoman Rosemary O'Neil. “It made sure we were all on the same page.”
The legislators are falling all over themselves to say they will get this done in January.  After the next school year has started.

1 comment:

concerned said...

I just received an email from Supt. Nyland about the SPS "response to the Orlando tragedy," which focuses entirely on the emotional fallout from tragic events such as this one...and says absolutely nothing about emergency preparedness. Your post was about North Thurston Public Schools, but is SPS ready to handle a mass shooting, earthquake, etc?.?