The recent tragedy at Virginia Tech University has led school officials nationwide to re-examine safety on their own campuses. Here’s a look at some grant programs that could help you improve your response to emergencies and otherwise enhance campus safety.

A federal grant program from the U.S. Department of Education (ED), called the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) program, is not new–but it has a new title. Some readers might be familiar with this program, which was started in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States and used to be called the Emergency Response and Crisis Management grant program. (See Feds launch $30 million emergency-planning program for schools)

REMS supports efforts by local education agencies (LEAs) to strengthen their emergency-management plans, including training school personnel and students in emergency response procedures; communicating emergency plans and procedures with parents; and coordinating with local law-enforcement officials, public safety officials, and public and mental health agencies. Although the deadline for this year’s program has passed–it was May 21–school leaders can take this opportunity to learn more about the program and start planning now for next year’s funding cycle. ED estimates it will make 73 awards this year, ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 in value.

Schools leaders who are looking for an alert system they can put into place rather quickly might want to consider the Alertify system from Omvox Telecom Corp. In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, Omvox has extended a grant program to provide its Alertify mass notification system at no cost to colleges and universities nationwide.

Michael Self, founder and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Omvox, sees the grant program as an immediate, interim solution to a long-term need. To date, 50 schools nationwide have tapped the Alertify grant program, he says.

“While schools struggle with the question of what to do long term, they can use Alertify until they have a permanent, long-term plan in place,” said Self, who has designed notification systems for the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Navy and reportedly created one of the first mass-alert systems in 1989. “We can have [schools] up and working in two days, giving them time to resolve funding issues and evaluate the best solution for their needs.”

He added: “From weather alerts to classroom changes to on-campus emergencies, these services immediately send users must-know information. One person can notify thousands of people in minutes.”

Schools subscribed to the system enter the contact information for each student, parent, and/or guardian, including eMail or text-message addresses and landline or wireless phone numbers. When an emergency arises, like a weather alert or school security issue, the system administrator or authorized user logs on to a secure web site and sends a recorded or text message instantly to these contacts. The solution also can be used to remind parents about upcoming events, or a professor can tell students about a classroom change.

College and university officials interested in applying for the Alertify grant program should complete an application online at www.alertify.com or call the company directly at (888) 98-OMVOX, extension 257.

In another example of corporate generosity, Jill Stelfox, CEO of Defywire Inc., is pledging to donate $1 million worth of her company’s premier software package, Mobile Guardian Safety Suite, to help protect students in the United States. This million-dollar commitment, called “Enough Is Enough,” is open to all districts that want to make their schools safer and more responsive in a time of crisis.

The Mobile Guardian Safety Suite is software that connects handheld devices to the back-end information contained in school and student information systems. The system gives school administrators, teachers, coaches, and bus drivers immediate, handheld access to all information in their school’s or district’s computer systems.

According to a Defywire press release, “Mobile Guardian Safety Suite gives school officials immediate access to emergency medical information about an ill or injured child, without losing precious minutes locating the information in a distant office. Even in the absence of a school-wide catastrophic event, such a device is invaluable when athletes collapse on the practice field or children are left on a school bus at the end of the day.”

LINKS:

Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Grant Program

ED’s Emerging Planning site

Alertify

Defywire’s Enough Is Enough campaign

Deborah Ward, CFRE, is an independent grant writing consultant. She welcomes questions at (717) 295-9437 or at Debor21727@aol.com.