They were last updated in 2003.
New Emergency Planning Guidelines are in place for all of Maryland's 24 public school systems. The measures were adopted last week by the State Board of Education.
The current guidelines were approved in 2003. "We updated it because, frankly, things have changed over the last ten years, and we want to make sure our school systems have all the up to date information," says Bill Reinhard, spokesman, the Maryland State Department of Education.
He says the new guidelines cover a number of issues related to emergency situations in the schools. "It has to do with communications, how to get information out to parents, and what are considered the right agencies involved," Reinhard says.
All school systems are required to have emergency plans in place. He says these new measures are not mandatory, but offer suggestions on how local public schools can improve, refine or redraw their emergency plans.
He says these new guidelines cover not just school shootings that have been in the news recently, but other emergencies, such as weather events (tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards) and haz-mat incidents.
Reinhard was asked how much the fatal shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, affected the preparation of these new guidelines. "Sandy Hook had done a lot of the right things, and that includes things such as locking doors and having some sort of barriers to access," he says. "But there were some things learned during that period, especially in terms of communications, and those types of things are included in this emergency guide."
At Sandy Hook Elementary School, 20 students and six adults were killed.
"The key to successful schools is planning and practice," says Lillian Lowery, Maryland's Superintendent of Schools, in a statement. "Schools and school systems must do everything in their power to keep students and staff free from harm. Every staff member must know what to do in the event of an emergency, and must have practiced his or her role."