In Case of Emergency, Open Browser
State of Nevada Homeland Security Commission
Situation: Struggling to comply with federal emergency preparedness mandates and directives, Nevada turned to FTI Consulting to combine training with a web-based tool to keep its students safe.
School districts need to have plans and procedures to respond to dangerous situations, including entrapment, environmental disasters, water main breaks and unpredictable acts of violence.
Yet in 2010, emergency preparedness at Nevada schools essentially was limited to fire drills.
The Nevada Homeland Security Commission engaged the Risk Management Practice at FTI Consulting to create an emergency preparedness system capable of responding to the heightened threats that school systems now face. FTI Consulting helped the state establish a task force that included representatives from the police, fire, public works, local government and local utilities to ensure that the new system would have the breadth and scope to handle a wide range of threats.
FTI Consulting's Role: Develop a comprehensive emergency management plan to train stakeholders in its execution
Nevada has two large metropolitan regions — Las Vegas and Reno — along with thousands of sparsely populated rural acres. Washoe County, for instance, contains Reno but still has a population density of approximately 66 people per square mile. By comparison, Boston has more than 6,500 people per square mile.
How could Nevada most effectively implement emergency response procedures at the 93 schools in Washoe County to protect approximately 63,000 enrolled students? How could it do the same for its 16 other school districts, almost all of them even more sparsely populated?
Given Nevada’s wide open spaces, FTI Consulting recognized that a web-hosted online emergency response plan would be the best way to disseminate and standardize emergency response procedures across the state.
"An effective emergency response depends on the whole community. You have to involve private business and agencies. The approach must be more interactive and community focused instead of consisting of silos and paper plans."
Aaron Kenneston, Washoe County Emergency Manager
Paper plans sitting at the bottom of dusty file drawers easily could be forgotten. Updating them would require printing new manuals and making sure they were read.
By contrast, the web-hosted plan would allow the Nevada Homeland Security Commission to update on the fly, in response to lessons learned. Revisions could be distributed instantly with a mouse click. The state could be sure that all stakeholders would have access to the most up-to-date version of the plan.
FTI Consulting’s Risk Management Practice helped Nevada implement the online tool, but having the technology in place was only half the equation. Stakeholders needed to be prepared to use the tool in crisis situations. So FTI Consulting led a series of training exercises with first responders and other stakeholders (e.g., principals, teachers and school nurses) that prepared them to act quickly and decisively in an actual emergency.
Outcome: Nevada becomes a leader in emergency preparedness
In October 2013, a student at the middle school in Sparks, Nevada, opened fire on the playground, wounding two students and killing a teacher before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide.
As the incident unfolded, the online Emergency Management Plan sprang into action. With drop-down menus on their screens, school staff directed students to take shelter in pre-identified safe locations, notified first responders and began lockdown procedures. Within minutes, police, fire and emergency medical technicians arrived at the scene to provide security and medical assistance to those in need.
Reviewing authorities’ response to the tragedy later on, the Washoe County School District Superintendent said, “The more we learn about the case, the more we can see our procedures actually worked and saved a lot of children.”
FTI Consulting’s Risk Management Practice has continued to help Nevada improve its emergency preparedness in other areas, setting up a web-based tool (http://www.nevadacontinuity.com) to host Continuity of Operations Plans for many of the state’s major cities, agencies, departments and tribal areas. In addition, FTI Consulting facilitates statewide conferences and exercises, making sure Nevada is able to fulfill its responsibility to protect its citizens.