Back to School 2012…, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from USAG-Humphreys’s photostream

Ensuring the safety of our children when they go to school is one of the most important roles we have as parents, teachers, law enforcement officials, and elected leaders. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut last year puts this responsibility in sharper focus. That tragedy should make us even more vigilant in our efforts to create the safest learning environments we possibly can. But this requires that we look closely at how our public safety officials at the city, the county, the Pittsburgh Public Schools, the universities, and the charter, private, and parochial schools interact and communicate with one another. We must have clear, open, and frequent communication between all of these officials. We must have concrete plans in place for how to deal with any emergency situations that could arise, whether it be a natural disaster or a dangerous individual.

1. Open Lines of Communication

Public safety officials in government, in our schools, and at our universities must have an open and direct way of communicating with one another and must have clear plans of action should any emergency arise that requires their attention. As Mayor, I will make it a priority to create a robust system of shared communication among these first responders. It is essential that security officials at the scene of an emergency have a direct line of communication with city officials who might need to respond and vice versa. City public safety personnel should have an approved list of emergency contacts at every school in the city limits and several designated officials who can advise them during an emergency situation.

2. Using Technology to Improve Coordination

Several technologies exist today that could vastly improve emergency response coordination for officials inside of schools and those responding to events at a school. Public safety officials should have easy digital access to school floor plans, approved emergency plans, and evacuation routes and should be able to use this information to take charge of emergency response if need be.

We have the capability to vastly improve our communication and coordination to deal with any situation that arises. As Mayor, I will ensure that we put these tools into place.