Below is a press release from the NEMLEC Police Foundation. The Wilmington Police Department is a member of NEMLEC:
HAVERHILL, MA — The NEMLEC Police Foundation, Inc., is pleased to share the recent success of a two-day training program designed to improve reunification of students and families following an event or incident at a school.
About 120 people, representing school districts and public safety departments across NEMLEC’s 65 member communities, attended the sessions at the Hartleb Technology Center at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill on October 27 and 28.
Sessions were led by instructors from the I Love You Guys Foundation, a Colorado nonprofit that works to bridge the gap between first responders and educators who may have different emergency response structures and terminology, hindering an effective response.
The Foundation was formed in 2006 by Ellen Stoddard-Keyes and John Michael Keyes, whose daughter was one of seven students held hostage by an armed gunman at Platte Canyon High School in Colorado. Emily Keyes was slain.
Her last text message to her father was: “i love you guys.”
“Our law enforcement agencies and schools have close ties and work extremely well together,” said Merrimac Police Chief Eric Shears, an Assistant Control Chief in NEMLEC’s School Threat Assessment and Response System along with Stoneham Police Chief James McIntyre. “At the same time, we may approach a situation in a very different way than educators. This type of training is vital to ensure we’re on the same page.”
Dan Rector, Foundation Emergency Management Planner, introduced attendees to the Standard Reunification Method, which offers tools to plan, practice, and achieve a successful reunification. This method can be used in even the smallest of disruptive events, such as a power outage that ends the school day early.
Rector urged the need for advance planning between school districts and first responders, and coordination and collaboration when an event occurs.
Tabletop exercises provided a number of challenges, such as what to do if students need to be moved off school property in cold or inclement weather: Is there indoor space nearby? Are there enough buses? How will this move be communicated to parents and the media?
Andy Arnold, a retired police sergeant with the Beloit, Wisconsin, Police Department and a Civilian Training Officer for the U.S. Army, led participants through increasingly challenging real-time scenarios on the second day. Attendees plays the roles of students, parents, and reunification team members to gain the perspectives of those most closely affected by an event.
Each scenario concluded with a review of steps taken by all operational leaders and discussion of areas for improvement.
“It was great to see the cooperation among the various agencies and organizations from the NEMLEC STARS teams,” Rector said. “At ‘I Love U Guys’ we always try to get the entire community involved in school safety, and the NEMLEC team is a great example of a region that already has that in place.”
“It was great to hear many participants discussing their current crisis plans and sharing ideas of what they may be able to do better when they return to their districts,” Chief McIntyre said. “This additional level of training will have real-world applications.”
The Foundation wishes to thank the Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council and its Incident Management Assistance Team for providing its Command Control Center for use during these exercises.
About the NEMLEC Police Foundation
The NEMLEC Police Foundation, Inc. exists to promote and pursue training, education, research, projects, and programs that benefit municipal police agencies and their communities in Northeastern Massachusetts. The foundation promotes the public’s understanding of their police departments. It receives gifts, contributions, and grants from individual benefactors or private organizations and distributes those gifts to benefit the Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council and its cities and towns.
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