Guidelines Provided on Terror Attack Response

February 14, 2003
Guidelines for responding to a chemical, biological, and/or radiological incident have been developed for principals and school-based staff by the Department of School Safety and Security in conjunction with the Montgomery County Fire and Explosive Investigation Section of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services.

At the same time, an increased emphasis on the emotional well being of children and adults is being made as stress levels increase in the wake of preparations in response to the federal warnings about a high risk of terrorist attacks in the United States.

“I want to urge principals and staff to be cognizant of the mental health needs of their students and staff, as well as themselves and their families, at a time of significant fear and apprehension,” said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools, in a directive yesterday [Thursday, February 13].

The school system has developed extensive mental health resources, including tips for parents that were translated into multiple languages. These resources were widely used when schools kept children and staff indoors for more than three weeks in October during the sniper incident.

The new federal threat warnings prompted the development of information for school system staff in the event of a chemical, biological, and/or radiological incident. Nonetheless, staff were advised that the guidelines would not address every contingency.

“The expectation is that schools will do the best they can with existing resources under whatever circumstances occur and that students, staff, and parents will be supportive and flexible,” Dr. Weast said.

“In any emergency situation, response strategies will depend on the nature and scope of the incident and prevailing conditions,” Dr. Weast said. “Public safety officials will play a critical role in identifying the specific nature, cause, and extent of the emergency, as well as providing guidance to administrators on the response steps that must be implemented. In such cases, we will react at the direction of public safety and health officials.”

The superintendent also urged administrators to “rely on previous crisis preparedness training, their school emergency/crisis plan, and their leadership and problem-solving skills in responding to a variety of emergency situations.”

“Each emergency incident will involve a multitude of factors, and administrators need to be flexible and adaptable in developing and implementing response strategies,” Dr. Weast said. “While there is no one set of response guidelines to deal with every possible emergency situation, administrators should use the Code Red and Code Blue procedures as the foundation of the initial response to any emergency situation, and do the best they can with the resources currently in schools.”

The guidelines are available at the link below.

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