Safety Bill Envisions Interoperable Communications in Schools

DENVER — A Colorado bill proposed by state senator Steve King (R.) aims to equip all schools with statewide communications interoperability — the first bill in the nation to propose a system on a statewide scale, according to the senator’s School Safety Summit initiative.
King said the bill, filed Friday, will be introduced early this week and assigned a bill number. 
Colorado State Senate Bill 11-173 states that each school day, state educators and school personnel are accountable for the safety of more than eight hundred thousand students — about one-fifth of the total population of the state.
While educators and school personnel are often the first to detect a school-related threat and are the first responders in a school building, field trip or school-related event, they are often the last to leave the site of an incident and are responsible for overseeing the aftereffects, the bill states.
“In recognition of these realities, schools must have the safety plans, procedures, training, safety and communications equipment, and other support they need in order to effectively participate with first responders in a coordinated response to any school incident,” the bill states. “The inability of state and local public safety agencies to reliably communicate directly and instantaneously with schools by radio creates the potential for unnecessary communication delays and poses a significant risk to school safety and homeland security.”
The bill would use resources offered by the Governor’s Office of Information Technology, the Division of Fire Safety within the Colorado Department of Public Safety, and the Colorado School Safety Resource Center to help schools include interoperable communications in their school safety, readiness, and incident management plans, according to the statement.
The bill would allow schools to benefit from coordinated multi-stakeholder efforts to share best practices in emergency communications, identify emergency communications needs at the school level and help target technical assistance and grant opportunities.
Taking advantage of existing resources would include participating agencies to implement interoperable communications into their procedures.
The Division of Fire Safety, as part of its regular school fire safety inspections, would review all-hazard drills conducted by a school, the school’s ability to communicate directly with state and local first responders during an emergency, and the school’s implementation of the National Incident Management System, according to the statement.
The state office of information technology would provide expertise, online training, train-the-trainer materials, and other tools to promote interoperable communications in schools.
The bill aims to prepare schools and the public safety community for next-generation communications technologies, according to School Safety Summit’s statement.