School Safety Partners Emergency Management Grant Program Growing

School Safety Partners is rolling ahead with its goal of training a million educators and school staff members across the United States in school safety. The organization, based in Colorado, recently received a million-dollar product and services fund from SchoolSafe Communications that will allow 20 schools or districts to implement radio communications systems from the company. Plus, it has announced a matching grants program for schools applying for school safety-oriented federal funding. The grants, which will equal 10 percent to 25 percent of the federal amounts, can be used to improve prevention-mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.

The School Safety Fund promotes broad adoption of the National Incident Management System (NIMS), the Incident Command System (ICS), and the National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP) for schools.

NIMS uses a core set of concepts, principles, procedures, processes, standards, and terminology that may all be integrated with school emergency management practices. The collective use of NIMS across all local incident response agencies, including K-12 schools and higher education institutions, creates a common "language" by which various agencies and participants can communicate in the event of an emergency incident.

The SchoolSafe grant provided by SchoolSafe Communications has a deadline of January 15, 2010. The individual $50,000 grants will be announced in February. In addition, recipients will receive independent consulting services throughout 2010 and 2011 to pursue additional funding from federal agencies.

Preference will be given to schools or school districts willing to complete a set of 15 implementation activities to achieve full NIMS compliance, such as institutionalizing ICS for managing emergency incidents and pre-planned events and establishing a public information system within the ICS framework.

According to School Safety Partners Director of Communications John Simmons, most of the schools pursuing the grants will probably be those that are already involved in Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) or Community Policing (COPS) grants.

"They'd call us, and we'd say, 'We'll package up way for you to get through those 15 activities," explained Simmons. "We'll pay for the equipment; we'll pay for installation; we'll pay for training; we'll provide independent grant writing and financial assistance."

That financial assistance aspect of the program is where the matching grant program will come into play.

The organization has partnered with McLiney and Co., investment bankers that handle municipal bond funding projects and work with districts in securing school funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). McLiney would be brought in to assist schools and districts to attain loans for major projects such as Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs), Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCBs), and Build America Bonds.

For example, a consortium headed by School Safety Partners could provide schools with the 10 percent matching funds needed to apply for QZABs. The matching funds would cover school safety curriculum development and training, full-scale exercises, and other safety consulting and technology.

In addition, the Fund provides guidance in applying for grants from the United States Department of Education, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, and other sources. For instance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a community assistance program that could be used to help rural schools improve coordination among local agencies when responding to school incidents.

Simmons said School Safety Partners hopes to attract $6 million from major sponsors in the next quarter to finance its matching funds program.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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