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Policy 3010 - Emergency Preparedness and Response

The purpose of this policy is to define the process and establish criteria by which the school system prepares for and responds to incidents that threaten the safety or health of students and employees or are disruptive to the operation of a school, multiple schools, or the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS).

Policy Document

I. Policy Statement

The Board of Education of Howard County recognizes that there will be occasions when it is necessary to respond to emergency incidents that threaten the safety or health of students and employees, or are disruptive to the operation of a school, multiple schools, or the school system. Advanced preparation and planning minimize risks inherent in any emergency. In certain instances, it may be necessary to take protective action, which may include closing a school, multiple schools, or the entire school system as a safety or health measure.

It is the intent of the Board to resume all normal operations, including instruction, as soon as feasible following an emergency.

II. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to define the process and establish criteria by which the school system prepares for and responds to incidents that threaten the safety or health of students and employees or are disruptive to the operation of a school, multiple schools, or the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS).

III. Definitions

Within the context of this policy, the following definitions apply:

  1. Advisory Group – The executive-level advisory body for HCPSS’ emergency management that sets the direction for the system’s disaster response and recovery.

  2. Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) – Procedures to ensure that the capability exists to continue essential functions during and after an extended emergency.

  3. Crisis – A traumatic event involving a student or employee that interrupts the normal day-to-day functioning of a school.

  4. Crisis Intervention Team – A team of individuals trained to provide immediate and long-term consultation and direct support to school communities following a crisis. The two crisis intervention team levels include:

    1. System-Level – A system-wide team of individuals trained to provide immediate crisis support as well as providing coordination of support professionals needed to support long-term recovery to students and employees.

    2. School/Facility-Level – A building team trained in immediate crisis response for students and employees after an incident.

  5. Emergency –A serious, unexpected, and often dangerous incident that has the potential to disrupt operations within the school system and which requires immediate response to protect students, employees, visitors, the school system, or property. Emergency levels include:

    1. Level I Emergency – An emergency isolated to an individual school site.

    2. Level II Emergency – An emergency that has a limited system-wide impact. These emergencies would most likely affect several schools within the system.

    3. Level III Emergency – An emergency that has a system-wide impact. These emergencies can affect all schools in the system, or occur at an individual school or multiple schools but affect the entire system.

  6. Emergency Operations Center (EOC) – A location for centralized policy direction and control of emergencies. The EOC locations include:

    1. Howard County Government EOC – Located within the Howard County Office of Emergency Management.

    2. Howard County Public School System(HCPSS) EOC – Located within the Department of Education.

  7. Emergency Release Procedures – The steps utilized following an emergency or preemergency when a school needs to release students to parents in a manner different from a normal release of students.

  8. Family Reunification Plan – A process to re-establish contact between students and parents after an incident.

  9. First Responder – A member of local, state, or federal law enforcement and/or the fire and rescue department.

  10. Functional Annex – Chapters within the HCPSS System-Level Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) that includes a description of a “function”, when to use a “function”, and the proper procedures required.

  11. HCPSS Command Staff – Individuals assigned to manage the HCPSS EOC during a level II or level III emergency. The command staff includes, but is not limited to, the Incident Commander, Safety Officer, Superintendent’s Cabinet, and Division Chiefs.

  12. HCPSS System-Level Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) – A multi-hazard approach for the school system to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk to the people, property, and operations of the school system.

  13. Howard County Government Emergency Operations Plan – A comprehensive emergency management plan incorporating all aspects of pre-emergency preparedness and post-emergency response, recovery, and mitigation.

  14. Incident Commander – The individual who provides command, control & direction of response during an emergency.

  15. Non-School Facility Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) – An emergency operations plan created specifically for non-school facilities within the school system that addresses the roles of non-school based employees in handling all levels of emergencies.

  16. Parent – Anyone of the following, recognized as the adult(s) legally responsible for the student:

    1. Biological Parent – A natural parent whose parental rights have not been terminated.

    2. Adoptive Parent – A person who has legally adopted the student and whose parental rights have not been terminated.

    3. Custodian – A person or an agency appointed by the court as the legal custodian of the student and granted parental rights and responsibilities.

    4. Guardian – A person who has been placed by the court in charge of the affairs of the student and granted parental rights and responsibilities.

    5. Caregiver – An adult resident of Howard County who exercises care, custody, or control over the student but who is neither the biological parent nor legal guardian as long as the person satisfies the requirements of the Education Article, §7-101(c) (Informal Kinship Care) or has been issued a U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Verification of Release form entering into a custodial arrangement with the federal government.

    6. Foster Parent – An adult approved to care for a child who has been placed in their home by a state agency or a licensed child placement agency as provided by the FamilyLaw Article, §5-507.

  17. People with Access and Functional Needs – A function based term for “special needs populations” as provided by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). It reflects a need rather than a condition, diagnosis, or label. Individuals may have additional needs before, during and after an incident in functional areas.

  18. School Specific Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) – An emergency operations plan created specifically for individual schools within the school system that addresses the roles of school-based employees and administrators in handling all levels of emergencies.

  19. Unified Command – A process by which all levels of emergency responders work together to respond to the disaster or incident. School administrators, school district personnel, and first responders coordinate emergency response efforts and report to one Incident Commander.

IV. Standards

  1. Preparedness

    1. HCPSS System-level, School-specific, and Non-school Facility Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs) comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with access and functional needs, the Maryland Safe to Learn Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

    2. The HCPSS will have a recovery plan that addresses the immediate, short-term, and long-term recovery process for the school system.

    3. The HCPSS will have a COOP that provides guidance and processes for immediate recovery after an incident.

    4. The Director of Security, Emergency Preparedness and Response serves as the HCPSS Incident Commander and will ensure that the school system plans and implementation procedures are developed and employees are trained regarding emergency preparedness.

    5. HCPSS will have an EOP for each school and non-school facility in consultation with other health and safety officials within the community. Copies of each EOP are kept at the school or non-school facility and electronically in the Office of Safety and Security.

    6. All HCPSS EOPs align with the Howard County Government EOP. HCPSS will maintain three separate emergency plans:

      • System-level plan – Provides guidance for managing an incident that affects multiple schools or the entire district.

      • School-specific plan – Provides guidance for managing an incident at a school.

      • Non-school facility plan – Provides guidance for managing an incident at a non-school facility.

    7. Employees will receive annual emergency training commensurate with their level of responsibility under their EOPs.

    8. A School-Based Crisis Intervention Team that includes administrators, student services employees, and other members as identified by the school administrator, will address the social-emotional needs of students and employees that result from an emergency or crisis.

  2. Response

    1. In times of emergency, the priority of the HCPSS will be the safety of all students, employees, and other individuals in a school system building, on school system property, or during a school-sponsored off campus event.

    2. The HCPSS will have three activation levels (Level I, II, and III) for all HCPSS EOPs. HCPSS will manage school system incidents utilizing the HCPSS EOPS, independent of the Howard County Government EOP.

    3. The HCPSS will participate with the Howard County Government Emergency Operations Center (EOC) if the nature of the incident demands such participation.

    4. Emergency release procedures will be utilized as appropriate in a response.

    5. Emergency communications to employees, parents, and the community will be coordinated through the HCPSS EOC based on the communication requirements detailed in the HCPSS System-level EOP.

    6. School or building administration will assume their responsibility as Incident Commander and will work jointly within the command system established by first responders and, when appropriate, the HCPSS command staff for the school system under a unified command process. Similarly, at a non-school facility, the senior leader on site will assume the responsibility of the Incident Commander.

  3. Recovery

    1. When emergencies require the evacuation of students from school buildings and/or non-school facilities, school system employees will follow the HCPSS Family Reunification Plan to ensure that students are reunited with their parents as soon as it can be safely accomplished.

    2. In accordance with the Crisis Intervention Resource Manual, the school system will provide psychological support services for immediate, short-term, and long-term recovery.

    3. To recover any needed school days, when incidents require that schools are closed for more days than those allocated on the academic calendar, the Superintendent may seek a waiver of the 180-day requirement by applying to the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).

  4. Continuity of Operations

    The COOP will be used to ensure continuation of essential system operations in emergencies that require long term recovery.

  5. Weather-Related Emergency Preparedness and Response

    1. Weather-related emergencies follow the provisions described in Section IV. Standards A-D of this policy as appropriate.

    2. At times when inclement weather threatens the safety of students and employees, the Superintendent/designee may dismiss early, close, or delay the opening of a school, schools or the school system. The decision to dismiss early, close, or delay the opening of a school occurs by examining the following criteria:

      1. Review weather forecasts supplied by AccuWeather Winter StormServices.

      2. Discuss with MD Department of Transportation and Howard County Government regarding snow emergencies.

      3. Have internal discussions based on all information prior to making the decision to close or delay schools or dismiss early.

V. Responsibilities

  1. The Director of Security, Emergency Preparedness and Response will ensure that the EOPs and COOPs are developed and implemented. The Director will provide appropriate training for employees at each school and non-school facility and will annually access the EOPs to monitor effectiveness.

  2. The Director of Transportation/designee will assess conditions in certain weather- related incidents and make recommendations to the Superintendent on emergency closures due to inclement weather based on the transportation functional annex of the HCPSS System-level EOP.

  3. The Chief Communication, Community/Workforce Engagement Officer will establish the procedures for the dissemination of school closing and other emergency announcements and ensure that parents and employees are informed of emergency communication procedures at the start of each school year.

    1. Internal Emergency Communications – Appropriate Board of Education employees affected by, or involved in the emergency will receive information as soon as possible following the emergency.

    2. External Emergency Communications – Employees, families, and community leaders affected by the emergency will receive information as soon as possible following the emergency.

  4. The Superintendent/designee will authorize a single school, multiple schools, or system-wide closure when emergency conditions warrant and will consult with or provide notification to the Board as appropriate.

  5. The Superintendent/designee will ensure the continuity of operations and the coordination of recovery efforts in the event of an extended emergency based on the COOP and the Recovery Plan.

  6. In the event of an early dismissal, the school-based administrator will ensure that all students are released in accordance with established school dismissal procedures. Elementary students will be released in accordance with instructions provided annually by parents on the emergency procedures form.

  7. The Executive Director of Program Innovation and Student Well-Being will activate the cluster Crisis Intervention Team when needed to help support students, employees, and school communities following a crisis.

  8. An HCPSS employee who supervises a school-sponsored after school, evening, weekend, or off-campus event or activity will ensure the safety of all participants, and will coordinate the immediate emergency response for HCPSS until relieved or the incident is resolved.

VI. Delegation of Authority

The Superintendent is authorized to develop appropriate procedures to implement this policy.

VII. References

  • Annotated Code of Maryland, Education Article, §§9-104, 4-205, 6-401(d), 6-501(f), Title 9

  • Annotated Code of Maryland, Education Article, §7-103

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12131 et seq.

  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. 1400-1487

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, 29 U.S.C. Sec. 794

C. Relevant Data Sources

D. Other

  • Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP)

  • HCPSS Non-School Facility Emergency Operations Plans

  • HCPSS System-Level Emergency Operations Plan

  • HCPSS School-Specific Emergency Operations Plan

  • Howard County Government Emergency Operations Plan

VIII. History

ADOPTED: January 5, 1971

REVIEWED:

MODIFIED:

REVISED:

  • August 24, 1989

  • January 13, 2005

  • April 12, 2012

  • March 14, 2019

EFFECTIVE: July 1, 2019