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Law updates school safety drills



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March 12, 2014 - Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation Feb. 25 updating Michigan's school safety drill requirements to ensure students are better prepared in times of emergency.

"This legislation will help give parents peace of mind in knowing their children and school officials are trained and prepared for possible school emergencies," Snyder said in a Press Release.

House Bill 4713, sponsored by state Rep. Joe Graves, updates the types of drills schools must conduct and requires school districts to post documentation of completed safety drills on their websites within 30 days of completion. The detailed reports must remain online for at least three years.

Currently, schools are required to have six fire safety drills, two tornado drills and two "lockdown" drills, which prepare for possible intruders. The new legislation requires five fire safety drills spaced throughout a school year, with three before Dec. 1; two tornado safety drills, including one in March; and three "lockdown" drills, with one of the three drills conducted during a lunch-recess period.

"As far as the changes, I think it's good," said Oxford Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources Nancy Latowski. "Even though Oxford has been very diligent following those guidelines, apparently there were some districts that were not. Safety is extremely important and I think that the more you conduct the drills, the more comfortable everyone is and (the) more smoothly it will go if there is an emergency."

Additionally, the chief administrator of a K-12 school must provide a list of scheduled drill days to the county emergency management coordinator by Sept. 15.

Schools must also adopt and implement a cardiac emergency response plan.

Having a cardiac response plan is something the district has already talked about said Latowski.

"When we went through the safety grants several years ago, there was some purchase of AEDs and there was some in the buildings," she added. "We brought more into the buildings and we'll be reinforcing that plan and working with the emergency response people to make sure that plan is acceptable."

As far as reporting on the website once the drills are completed, that will be something new that they haven't done, but Latowski doesn't see that as an issue.

"We're happy to show the drills are being conducted. We have a great emergency response team in the area and we will (continue to) work very close with our fire and police units," she said. "We cooperate very well, so I don't see any issues at the county level."

The legislation arose from a recommendation of the multi-agency School Safety Workgroup the governor convened to review best practices and policies concerning safe school plans.

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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