Missouri is well known as the “Show Me” State, but when it comes to helping schools create emergency operations plans (EOPs), it’s Missouri that has something to show to other states: Missouri 1Plan, an online tool that integrates incident planning, mapping and training.
Missouri 1Plan (demo at http://www.moces.org/MO_1Plan_Overview/OPEN_ME_IN_BROWSER.html; one-pager at http://www.moces.org/files/mo1plan/one_page_MO.pdf) offers online assistance with assessments, training, site mapping and emergency plans, plus a status board and a mobile app. The state worked with a vendor and used U.S. Department of Homeland Security funding to produce the tool, which is offered free to all schools and districts in the state. Since its introduction in January 2015, Missouri 1Plan has grown from 170 initial users to more than 1,500.
John Warner, emergency planning coordinator at the Missouri Center for Education Safety (MOCES), says when he participated in the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Comprehensive School Safety Initiative Topical Working Group on State School Safety Issues in February 2016, he realized that a number of other states wanted a similar system, and Missouri is willing to share its experience establishing the system with other states interested in developing their own tools.
“Every K-12 school in Missouri has access to the secure portal,” says Warner, a school resource officer for more than 20 years with the Columbia Police Department. “It allows districts that have struggled with how to write an EOP to not only produce one, but to also keep it updated. If your plan is on paper, when you make a change, you have to send a copy of the change around to everyone. With the portal, it automatically sends out an announcement that a change has been made, and administrators get notices that let them know who has read it.”
“You can give law enforcement, fire, EMS and 911 access to look at the plan and see how it relates to their own plans, allowing for community involvement. And Missouri 1Plan lets schools put in their emergency contacts, which teachers and administrators can then pull up using the mobile app,” he adds.
Warner says that even without Missouri 1Plan, larger school districts may already have a strong EOP in place because they’ve been able to afford to hire consultants, but small districts tend to struggle: “We heard this over and over again at the NIJ meeting. Small districts don’t have the manpower and all of the work falls on one person, be it the superintendent, the principal or maybe the football coach. Giving our small districts access to Missouri 1Plan allows them to put a team together and they can learn as they go. I don’t want to say it’s the be-all and end-all, but it seems to work, and it works pretty well.”
MOCES provides a “customer service” aspect as well, contacting technical support as needed to help schools resolve any issues they may encounter. Warner, however, says the Center has received very little negative feedback, with many districts saying how much better Missouri 1Plan is than what they were using before: “I know some of them had not touched their paper EOPs for five or six years, and this is pretty much like getting off a horse and getting on a rocket ship.”
In addition to positive feedback on the tool in general, schools specifically say that teachers continually ask for an emergency app, because they always have their devices with them whether they’re on the playground, in the cafeteria or on a field trip. Another plus with schools is the robustness and versatility of Missouri 1Plan, which includes elements as varied as radicalization and assessing the school climate to ensuring the school has access to enough shelter in place space in the event of a tornado, from determining whether a school needs more cameras to planning for active threat and other drills.
MOCES staff spreads the word about all those features in various ways, with the most successful being regional workshops that provide lots of face time; Warner says after each of six scheduled workshops, there’s been an increase in Missouri 1Plan use in that local area.
In addition to being willing to share information about Missouri 1Plan with the rest of the country, MOCES also offers an open access, Cloud-based Resource Toolkit on its website (http://www.moces.org/files/toolkit/School%20Safety%20Resource%20Toolkit%20v-8.21.1S.pdf) that includes national resources for law enforcement, administrators, teachers, parents and students in areas such as bullying, public safety, sports injuries, school bus safety, active shooter situations, bomb threats and more: “We wanted school districts to have resource information at their fingertips so they don’t have to sort through search results. We wanted it to be a one-stop shop, and we tell our districts that if they think something is missing, let us know and we’ll research it and put it up there.”