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Safe Return: Navigating School Safety and Emergencies

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Schools will be back and most of them open for in-person learning in a few weeks. As students return, challenges related to safety and emergencies persist. So how do you prepare schools?

Offering his expert perspective, Frank Kitzerow, retired Chief of Police and District Security for the Palm Beach County School District, spoke with School Safety Today host Shelby Skrhak. Kitzerow had a 40-year career in law enforcement.

“Regarding the safety aspect, there are a lot of questions. One thing I learned was to pay attention to the community, because schools are a microcosm of it, ”Kitzerow said.

While leading the Palm Beach County School District, Kitzerow established a school safety ecosystem. “It’s about staying to the left of the X, X being a catastrophic event. The emphasis is on prevention, intervention and diversion to stop a potential attack.

The planning part of school safety is essential, according to Kitzerow. “You want to have a robust toolbox to react quickly if that day happens. A plan for this involves communication, unified command and technology.

Developing an intervention plan requires many stakeholders. They are parents, students, teachers, administrators, law enforcement, fire and rescue, and more. Kitzerow established such a program involving all of these parties focusing on effective communication, situational awareness, and technological tools.

“One of the most important advancements in communication is reunification, matching students with family, which is often a lot of people, and there is no room for error. Emergency management platforms support that, ”Kitzerow noted.

Such technology can also play a role in communicating with teachers during an incident.

Kitzerow also urged districts to put the plans into practice, not just create them. “Make sure everyone is well versed. What you invest upstream, you get back downstream.

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