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MEMA Home > Programs> Communication> News > Spotlight on School Safety

Spotlight on School Safety


September 8, 2007


Schools are at the heart of our communities. Our children spend their days there; family and neighbors work there. Community members flock there for meetings and sporting events. We depend on schools to be emergency shelters. School safety and emergency preparedness is a central community concern.

We all remember fire drills in school. (If we’re old enough, we remember air raid drills, too!) Nowadays, school emergency plans cover far more than simply fire drills. After Columbine, violence in schools became a prime concern. In Maine, we focus on preparing schools for all types of emergencies, and building partnerships that involve the entire community in school safety.

This approach has been moved forward by a statewide partnership led by the Department of Education and MEMA and including the Maine School Management Association, the Maine Principals Association, the Maine School Nurses Association, County Emergency Management Agencies, and many more.

Improved school preparedness and safety starts with simple steps:

  1. Know what kinds of emergencies might affect your school, both internally and externally. Find out which natural disasters are most common in the areas where you are located. You may be aware of some of your community's risks; others may surprise you. Work with your local public safety and emergency management officials, and County EMA Director.
  2. Learn from these partners how to handle a specific disaster or event.
  3. Develop a comprehensive School Emergency Plan, working with your local partners. The links below offer excellent guidance, and MEMA and the Department of Education offer periodic training in emergency planning.
  4. Keep the community informed about your planning. Parents need to feel confident that their children’s school is well-prepared for emergencies.
  5. Stay informed. Be aware of weather situations. Stay in close touch with local officials to make sure you get early warning of any local emergencies that might affect your school.
  6. Practice! Emergency drills are essential to make sure your plan will work, and to help staff and students remember what to do in an actual emergency.

This past spring, new legislation clarified what schools should be planning for, and how schools and local officials should work together in planning. It also made it clear that the basics of school emergency plans could and should be shared with the community, so that everyone could be confident that school emergencies could be handled effectively. This important legislation, “An Act to Ensure the Integrity of School Crisis Plans”, can be reviewed at:

As a parent or community member, what can you do? Get involved. Ask your local school officials about their emergency plan. If they’re still working on it, get on the team. The more the community is involved and informed, the stronger the plan will be.

Here are the materials Maine's multi-agency team has developed to get planning started:

Maine prepares. Maine has led the way in a cooperative, all-hazard approach to emergency preparedness for schools. Working together, we can continue to ensure that our schools and our children are safe.

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Dwane Hubert


Last update: 07/20/10