Public School Risk Institute
Resources for a Risk Intelligent Public School Nation 
Recent Events Underscore Need for Emergency Plans  

Administrators and principals recognize the importance of developing, maintaining and employing comprehensive emergency preparedness and crisis response plans for their schools. The lasting effects of Superstorm Sandy and other recent national disasters reinforces the importance for public school districts to work closely with their local emergency management officials and to have well-rehearsed plans in place for a variety of crises. Many emergency management officials agree that schools should also tailor their plans to meet the unique needs of the school and the community in which it is located. These officials also agree that the quality of the plan is related to the extent to which all stakeholders in the school community are involved in the development and review of these plans, have a defined role within the plan and are involved at the district planning level.


Read the full article on the SchoolRisk blog and learn about emergency preparedness resources available to school districts. PSRI provides resources for emergency management that can be found in our Helpful Links section of our website.


 Fairfax County Public Schools, one of our member districts, is featured on the Department of Education's Emergency Planning page as one of the "Examples of Promising Practices in School Emergency Response."


NOTE -  FEMA Public Assistance registration deadlines have been extended an extra month from the original November 30th date.  

Post-Sandy Claims and Relief Funding for School Districts

In the wake of "Superstorm Sandy", public schools across the Northeast are now in the process of recovery and reconstruction. School districts will soon be receiving initial insurance payments to repair damages from the storm.


In New York City, which bore the brunt of the storm's damage, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and City Comptroller John Liu announced an emergency plan for $500 million in capital spending to repair public schools and hospitals impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Extensive damages forced 43 schools in New York City to close their doors, according to a  NYC Department of Education announcement. The storm also impacted another 22, as their school buildings either lost power or were used as emergency evacuation shelters. In all, some 18,000 students were relocated to other schools until repairs are made. So far, 25 of the affected schools have been reopened, and repairs are underway.


According to the New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal (NYSIR), which  insures over 340 New York school districts,  about 100 NYSIR districts have reported damages. In New Jersey, 70 out of the 144 member school districts of the School Alliance Insurance Fund (SAIF) have reported damages at 90 locations.


Losses for both groups are significant, as expected; Lexington Insurance, who wrote the policy for SAIF this year, expects total losses related to Sandy to reach about $20 million, close to twice the company's losses from Hurricane Irene last year. Statewide, the claims stemmed from damage to roofs, solar panels, school equipment, sports field equipment and grounds as well as flood losses and food spoilage. [1] The effective use of reinsurance by cooperative groups such as NYSIR and SAIF, however, protects school districts' investments from a single catastrophic event such as Superstorm Sandy.  

Protecting Your School's Invaluables

Much of the most severe damage caused by Hurricane Sandy came from the effects of flooding. Boilers, pipes, electrical wiring, carpeting, furniture -- for many schools, these materials will have to be replaced. Generally, however, in a disaster the most troubling losses are not the desks, chairs and bookcases, but the important documents that may or may not be replaceable.


The New York State Archives (NYSA) website has compiled information for government entities who are applying for FEMA funds to  salvage, stabilize, and restore records lost in flooding or other damage from the storm. NYSA also has  disaster preparation information, including how to protect physical records, electronic records, as well as dealing with mold and contamination and obtaining services and available funding.


Public entities in New York have the option to apply for a  Shared Services Grant, which can incentivize collaboration between local government agencies in creating a long-term solution to better management of records in emergencies over short-term funding. An example of a Shared Services agreement was given by NYSA: "A County Disaster Management Coordinator can establish an electronic storage vault that would allow local governments within the county to back up their vital electronic records at an offsite facility. The Coordinator can also work with the governments on establishing disaster plans."

Irene Prepares Schools for Sandy 

An article released by the Nassau County Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) noted the importance of collaboration and communication during the process of disaster preparation. According to the article, a host of precautionary measures had to be put in place, from the placement of sandbags and tarps, to the cleaning of storm drains and the moving of buses. Weak spots in facilities (such as those caused by ongoing construction) were identified and further fortified. In preparation for power outages, Technology Services experts were assigned to each building to bring computer network and electronic systems back online as soon as possible. Business Services took precautions to ensure payroll would go out on time via direct deposit, predicting school closures.


Though perhaps overhyped in the media at the time, Hurricane Irene ultimately provided an opportunity for schools to hone their Emergency Response Plans for Sandy. "Having a good plan and the right team in place to execute it was critical to Nassau BOCES' successful response to the 'super storm.'" said District Superintendent Thomas Rogers. "What we learned from our successes and challenges during Hurricane Irene was a big part of the reason why we were back on our feet so quickly." Nassau BOCES is a member of the New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal.

Department of Education Allowing 'Flexibility' on IDEA Requirements

Because of the disruption of Hurricane Sandy, many schools have had challenges in addressing some of the needs of students with disabilities. Special Education due process hearings were affected for some New York school districts, as impartial hearing officers, schools and parents alike were directly impacted by Sandy. In a memo responding to requests from school districts, the State Department of Education announced that it could not provide waivers for districts' Special Education responsibilities, which include conducting Committee on Special Education meetings and timelines to complete special education evaluations and secure special education placements, since they are federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requirements. However, NYSED is offering flexibility to school districts on these regulations. "In an emergency situation where the acts of nature prevent a school district from meeting its IDEA requirements, the State will not issue findings of noncompliance to a school district because of its failure to meet these requirements when it is evident that they are the direct result of the State disaster emergency."


The Public School Risk Institute is a national nonprofit entity dedicated to advancing school risk management and helping school leaders connect across the country. Focused exclusively on public school districts, the Institute undertakes research, publishing, education and activities intended to foster a spirit of community and common interest. The Institute strives to support a large community of school risk management professionals committed to the success of public education.

December 2012
In This Issue
Emergency Response Plans for Schools
Post-Sandy Claims Report
Protecting Your School's Invaluables
Irene Prepares Schools for Sandy
IDEA Requirements After Storm

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Ron Allen
Executive Director
Public School Risk Institute
706-715-3381 ext 711