The Bush administration on March 7 announced a new federal Web resource aimed at helping schools better prepare for an emergency, such as a terrorist act, violent incident, or natural disaster.
The address of the material, part of the Department of Education’s Web site, is www.ed.gov/emergencyplan.
“This Web site … will include expert advice on how schools can prepare for an emergency,” said Secretary of Education Rod Paige at a news briefing. “It’s designed to be a one-stop shop, and so we invite schools all across the nation, and community agencies and organizations all across the nation, to visit this Web site.”
In addition, the department will award $30 million in grants this summer to help school districts improve and strengthen emergency-response and crisis-management plans, Mr. Paige said. That funding was included in the fiscal 2003 Education Department appropriation approved as part of a federal spending package last month.
Secretary Paige and Tom Ridge, the secretary of the new Department of Homeland Security, went to Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md., just outside Washington, to make the announcements.
“I know how important emergency planning is,” said Mr. Paige, a former superintendent of Houston public schools. “Schools are part of the community. They must be part of the community’s emergency plan.”
He said the message to school and community leaders is: “If you don’t have a plan, get one. If you have one, practice it.”
The federal funds for emergency planning could be used to train school personnel, parents, and students in crisis management; coordinate with local emergency responders; purchase equipment; and coordinate with agencies and organizations responsible for recovery issues, according to a department press release.
Such federal funding is not altogether new. The House-Senate conference report attached to the department’s fiscal 2002 budget made available $9 million for similar grants. Meanwhile, President Bush in early February requested another $30 million in the department’s budget plan for fiscal 2004, which begins next Oct. 1.
At the same time, however, the president’s budget would cut $50 million in state grants under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Program. The Education Department’s budget summary says the $470 million state-grants program has “weaknesses” that need to be addressed.
Ready, Not Afraid
Secretary Ridge said the new Education Department Web source is intended to complement ready.gov, the site unfurled by his agency recently.
“Terrorism forces us to make a choice,” Mr. Ridge said. “We can be ready, or we can be afraid. Americans aren’t afraid of anything. So we’ll just be ready.”
Blair High Principal Phillip Gainous, who also spoke at the event, said his school and community have taken steps to be ready.
“We understand the importance of coordinated and well-practiced plans for emergencies,” he said. “We also know how important it is to maintain a strong, cooperative relationship with first responders and government agencies.”