The Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) and the Northeast Homeland Security Regional Advisory Council (NERAC) sponsored a school safety conference on March 17th at Endicott College to introduce 225 stakeholders from school districts and public safety agencies throughout Essex and Middlesex Counties to the 2nd Edition of the NEMLEC School Threat Assessment and Response System (STARS) Toolkit.
The STARS Toolkit provides public officials with a comprehensive resource for preparing for all types of emergencies within schools, and includes guidance on building multi-disciplinary crisis response teams, responding to bomb threats, holding effective trainings and exercises, and much more. This 2nd edition document replaces the 1st edition (published in 2006) with updated information and best-practices based on the lessons that have been learned across the country over the last 11 years. All conference attendees were provided with a copy of the STARS Toolkit, as well as a STARS School Emergency Operations Plan (SEOP) template that can be used to formally establish and document local emergency procedures. These resources were developed by the STARS Toolkit Committee, which consists of a group of volunteers from several police departments and school districts in the region. Copies of both the STARS Toolkit and STARS SEOP can be found at www.STARSTOOLKIT.org.
“Making resources available on a regional basis to improve the safety, security, and well-being of our citizens is the core of NEMLEC’s mission, and we are proud to further that objective by making this toolkit available” said Chief Richard McLaughlin of the Belmont Police Department, who currently serves as the President of NEMLEC and as a member of the NERAC Council. “Ensuring the safety of the children and faculty in our schools is a priority for both NEMLEC and NERAC, and we are thankful for the support from the membership of both organizations and the hard work of the dedicated volunteers who made this event possible.”
During the day-long event, members of the STARS Toolkit Committee provided a detailed overview of the contents of each resource, outlining the wide variety of situations they may be useful in. The event also included presentations from Dr. Lina Alathari, the Chief of the National Threat Assessment Center for the United States Secret Service, and Michele Gay, the Executive Director of Safe and Sound Schools. Dr. Alathari spoke in the morning about the challenges of identifying and addressing threats to safety in schools using case studies from across the country, and later in the day, Ms. Gay explained the events and lessons learned as a result of the December 14, 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT from the perspective of a parent.
“Bringing people from public safety professions such as law enforcement and the fire service together with educators, school administrators, and mental health professionals to address problems collaboratively is the primary principle that the STARS model was founded upon in 1999” said Chief Leo Sacco of the Medford Police Department, who serves as the Control Chief for NEMLEC STARS and the Chair of the NERAC Council. Speaking to the overall success of the STARS program, he added that “The development of this new toolkit and the diversity of the audience at this event are tremendous examples of the strong partnerships that have been formed between individuals in each of these professions over many years, and their dedication towards the common goal of improving safety in all of our schools.”
The Northeast Homeland Security Regional Advisory Council (NERAC) was established by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) in 2004 to provide guidance on the expenditure of Federal Homeland Security Grant Funds received by the 85 cities and towns within the Northeast Homeland Security Region. EOPSS appointed a multi-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional Advisory Council of 15 members who represent all relevant public safety disciplines, including law enforcement, fire service, emergency management, public health, hospitals, emergency medical services, public works, transportation, corrections, communications, and local government. This Advisory Council serves as the policy making and administrative body for the Northeast Homeland Security Region as defined by the Massachusetts State Homeland Security Strategy developed by EOPSS. There are four (4) other Homeland Security Regions with Advisory Councils in the state.
The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) serves as the fiduciary and program manager for NERAC, providing planning, facilitation, administrative support, and project management services to the region. For more information, visit www.NERAC.us and www.MAPC.org.
The Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) is a consortium of police departments in Middlesex and Essex Counties, and two County Sheriff’s Departments. Member agencies operate by sharing resources and personnel, collectively providing services to each other that might not be available to one. NEMLEC coordinates this sharing of personnel and resources to provide its member agencies with the ability to provide supplemental services to the 1.7 million people in the 925 square miles they serve. NEMLEC is a professional organization that is directed by the priorities and needs of its members. This means that officers from NEMLEC’s agencies can be made available in other communities during an emergency or event that requires police services beyond what local police may have. NEMLEC coordinates the provision of mutual aid and the sharing of these officers between agencies, in accordance with Massachusetts General Laws, Section 40, Paragraphs 8G and 4J. Responding officers that report to provide mutual aid are under complete control of, and follow all commands given by, the local police chief of the department that requests our services.
Amanda Linehan, Communications Manager
Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC)
Sharyn Lubas, Executive Director
Northeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC)