Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it necessary to prepare if we can just call 911?
A big misconception by many districts is that emergency responders will simply manage a crisis within their schools. The reality, however, is that “it is your building.” While most emergency responders possess tactical expertise, they will be relying upon you to make critical intervention decisions as well as collaborate with them using federal ICS (Incident Command System) protocols.
School officials need to be aware that emergency response resources vary tremendously from community to community. Your district may be dependent upon a small all volunteer agency that lacks both physical resources and the necessary expertise to respond timely and effectively in an emergency. When the dust settles, clients are able to answer the tough questions regarding their level of preparedness and the manner in which a crisis was managed.
How long does it typically take to get us prepared?
The first step in our strategic approach to achieving your safe environment is to determine your current condition. Some districts have done an exceptional job at taking proactive steps towards safe schools while others are well behind. At the conclusion of our vulnerability assessment process, clients are provided an accurate estimate of the necessary time and resources needed to meet their objectives. Most districts however can expect a dramatic improvement in condition in just 4-6 months.
Why do we need an outside consulting firm if we have safety and/or security people on staff?
- Experts in the Field not the Facility
While staff personnel usually possess expert knowledge of their own facility(s), they often lack the diverse insight that an Emergency Preparedness Consultant can offer. Altaris consultants offer expert solutions derived from work with a wide range of schools, staffs, students and communities. Utilizing the latest techniques derived from current incidents and trends, clients are assured they are getting optimal solutions.
- Business Best Practice
The use of outside consultants has been a best practice of schools and other businesses for decades. Not just because of the expertise they posses, but the fresh and independent view they provide. Managing 100% of your operations in house with no external audit is the equivalent of operating in a vacuum and can have serious consequences. Your district hires an accounting firm to audit their books each year because it is a recognized best practice. Not because administration feels your finance department is inept.
- Cost Effective Specialized Knowledge
Most budgets and head counts don’t allow for continued education and training in current standards and best practices for specialties like workplace violence, suspicious packages, executive protection, haz-mat spills, background checks, sheltering-in-place, premises liability reduction, access control, crisis communications, facility and site clean-up, and more—leaving you needlessly exposed to risk and business interruption. Present-day threats and responses require specialized knowledge. Hiring an outside firm is the most cost effective way to supplement your in-house capability with that specialized knowledge.
What are the mandates we must comply with?
Mandates vary from state to state however virtually all states require schools to have detailed emergency plans at both the school and district level. Plans must contain detailed information on how to deal with a variety of crisis’ and must be updated annually. There are also requirements for continuing education. OSHA has it’s own regulations regarding Emergency Action and Fire Prevention plans. An Altaris consultant can help you to understand your states individual requirements and your current level of compliance.
What is our district’s liability for failing to reasonably plan?
In addition to liability for intentional harm caused by a person or entity, there is also liability for any failure to act under certain circumstances. As educators, you have a legal obligation known as “duty of care” to those who you have accepted responsibility which includes your students. Failing to prevent what is considered “foreseeable circumstances” can constitute negligence and tremendous civil liability. Such issues as bullying prevention, mitigating physical hazards and comprehensive emergency planning are all responsibilities of a school.
What is the typical size of a project team?
The size of our project team is largely dependent upon the level of service you contract with us to provide. At a minimum clients can expect our managing partners Larry Eidelman and John LaPlaca to be intricately involved in your project. Additional Altaris personnel may be utilized to assist with interviews, physical assessments, training programs and exercise facilitation.
Will client staff serve on teams?
Our projects are partnerships and collaborations, so it’s important that we share our thinking with clients to better achieve objectives. Members of your staff may be involved in various tasks such as focus groups, walk through assessments and mock exercises.
How much time must our staff devote to the project?
While a client’s staff will work closely with Altaris consultants, there is no need for clients to designate staff members to the project on a full time basis. We understand how valuable your staff’s time is and we make every attempt to minimize the burden upon them.
Will staff need training?
In virtually every project we are engaged, some form of training is provided depending upon the current condition of the client. The programs are fully customized to meet the unique needs of the client resulting in exceptional solutions.
How will Altaris administer the project?
Our primary solution centers on emergency preparedness strategy development, which other components are subsequenlty built upon. Effective emergency preparedness requires a four phased approach including:
- Safety & Security Audit
An off-site review of the clients documentation including policies, procedures, reports and floor plans. We often use web and video conferencing technology to conduct off -site interviews to reduce client costs. An on-site physical assessment of facilities is conducted along with interviews of key staff members as necessary.
- Strategy Development – The Emergency Plans
Utilizing the information obtained during the assessment process, our managing partners will create a customized set of emergency plans to develop the client’s capacity to prevent and when necessary to respond effectively to virtually any type of crisis.
- Staff Development Training Programs
Customized training programs are developed around the unique condition and needs of the client. Programs are can be provided both on-site and/or via webinar and/or other electronic delivery methods.
- Tabletop and Facility Exercise Facilitation
Schools need to significantly expand upon the simple fire drill to include exercises that encompass emergency response to a wide array of emergencies. While full scale drills can be effective training tools, they are both time and labor intensive limiting/eliminating their use in many districts. The utilization of Tabletop Drills provides a simulation of a crisis in a casual and non-stressful environment, which is designed to test plan effectiveness while developing staff ability. Tabletop drills can be provided both on-site and/or via webinar and other electronic delivery methods.
What are your reporting and communication policies?
Effective communication is the hallmark of our acclaimed services. Our managing partners personally handle communication with the client providing progress reports at agreed upon intervals. Our partners are also readily available by phone and email during regular business hours to answer any questions or concerns the client may have. Altaris also offers a 24 hour service option which gives clients around the clock emergency access to our consultants should a crisis strike.
How do you determine when the project is completed?
At the implementation of every project, we obtain both conceptual agreement as well as a list of specific client objectives to be achieved. Only after final approval from the client that each of theses objectives have been satisfactorily met is the project deemed completed.
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