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Delaware County summit focuses Ebold, infectious disease

Upper Darby, PA -- Officials in Delaware County are continually working to help schools keep students safe from acts of violence in the community and address the latest threats to safety. In the wake of the Ebola crisis facing the nation, the latest threat to schools has taken the form of a virus disease that has resulted in many questions about emergency response procedures, safeguards and protocols in the community.

For 16 years the District Attorney has been holding Safe Schools Summits, partnering with school officials, public safety officials and first responders to improve school safety in Delaware County. This year’s summit at Drexelbrook Conference Center attracted more than 400 educators, first responders, and public safety officials and expanded to include schools, colleges and universities from across southeastern Pennsylvania.

“Delaware County has great schools. It is our goal to ensure learning can continue to happen in a safe and secure environment for our children,” said District Attorney Jack Whelan. “By coming together and collectively talking about the challenges facing our schools and promoting best practices, we can continue to help first responders protect our schools.”

Throughout the year first responders are continually training to handle acts of violence in the community. The summit was organized to bring together stakeholders tasked with preventing, planning and responding to an active shooter in a school setting and inform, educate and discuss ways to further increase the ability to safely and effectively respond to emergency situations. As a follow-up to summit training, school administrators were encouraged to complete a checklist for safety and security and meet with their local police departments to refine and update school emergency response plans.

The summit featured welcoming remarks by DA Whelan and Delaware County Council, followed by an overview of Chapter 10 school safety and response regulations by Assistant District Attorney George Dawson, who also serves as chief of the anti-violence task force. Other topics included security assessments, threat indicators, and suspicious activity reporting by Governor’s Office of Homeland Security Director Thomas Minton, FBI Special Agent Joseph Metzinger, and Department of Homeland Security Advisor Bill Ryan.

Additionally participants received information on crime reporting by CID Chief Joseph Ryan, who reviewed available tools for receiving critical information including the Delco Alert System, DA’s Delco Crime Stoppers, and My Mobile Witness, a new see something, say something app that captures and reports suspicious activity.

An active shooter ‘table top’ exercise included first responders from Radnor and Haverford Police Departments, Pennsylvania State Police, and members of Delaware County Emergency Management Services. Panelists addressed what happens during the 15 minutes of responding to an active shooter on campus, with course of action based on the most effective way to protect lives whether through building evacuation or lockdown/hide out in the school. Police officers then demonstrated room clearing techniques during a live active shooter scenario demonstration with use of police training guns and strategic response in a school setting.

The 2013 Safe Schools Active Shooter Summit was sponsored by the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office, Delaware County Council, Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional Task Force, Pennsylvania Governor’s Homeland Security Office, Pennsylvania State Police, Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the United States Attorney’s Office.