Audit finds that schools are falling short on emergency planning

School districts in Niagara and Erie Counties included
Posted at 12:15 PM, Jul 25, 2019

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — An audit done by the state comptroller finds that school districts, including two in our area, are not prepared for emergencies.

"None of the schools that we looked at met the minimum requirements set out by the state education department," said Director of Communications for State Comptroller, Jennifer Freeman.

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's audit also found that two schools in the state had no safety plans at all.

The requirements are based on the SAVE Act, enacted in 2000. It mandates that schools have training and instructions for staff on how to prepare for emergencies.

"It requires that schools have a plan in place, they have both a safety plan in place and a building level emergency response plan, in that plan they identify key people and identify specifics as to how they would respond," said Freeman.

Among the 19 districts, the audit looked at the Lancaster Central School District and the Niagara Falls City School District. The Comptroller's office did not specify school-specific details, but said all need to make improvements.

"Our schools need to really roll up our sleeves and do a better job preparing in case something should happen," said Freeman.

Reporter Taylor Epps reached out to both school districts for a comment.

The falls was cited for not designating a chief emergency officer and paperwork issues, according to Superintendent Mark Laurrie.

"Everything that we drill, everything that we do was up to snuff, if not, exceeding the expectation, where we have to get better is to tighten up our paperwork and tighten up our agendas and our sign in sheets, those are easy fixes," Laurrie.

The Lancaster Central School District gave a statement.

"the implementation of these suggestions are underway. The audit was of documentation and not in any way an assessment or an indication of how safe and secure our district facilities are. While our documentation could be strengthened, there are tangible and measurable actions we have taken to continuously improve,"
- Superintendent Michael Vallely

All school districts are required to make changes and adopt safety plans by September 1, per Comptroller DiNapoli.

They are also required to hold public hearings before finalizing these plans.

There are 19 state requirements, school districts must have:

  • Policies to respond to direct threats
  • Policies to respond to acts of violence
  • Prevention and intervention strategies
  • Policies to contact law enforcement
  • Arrangements for assistance from emergency services and government agencies
  • Procedures for obtaining advice from government officials
  • Identification of resources
  • Descriptions of procedures to coordinate resources
  • Policies for contacting guardians during violent incidents
  • Policies for contacting guardians during threats
  • Policies for building security
  • Policies for disseminating information regarding early detection
  • Policies for annual school safety training
  • Procedures for test drills
  • Identification of appropriate responses to emergencies
  • Strategies to improve communication
  • Descriptions of duties of school safety personnel
  • Systems for informing educational agencies

You can find the audit here.