– Following the tragedy in Parkland, Rep. Steve Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware) discussed school safety with Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) Director Richard Flinn at a hearing held by the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness (VAEP) Committee.
“Just like other parents and grandparents in the Commonwealth, I expect that my children and grandchildren should be able to go to school without fear. However, shootings like the one in Florida are gruesome reminders that changes must be made,” Barrar said. “The first step to addressing this problem is a conversation.”
Flinn testified that schools in Pennsylvania are required by law to have an emergency plan. However, there are many possible emergency situations, and each plan may not necessarily address an active shooter. He explained that PEMA works diligently to provide schools with the tools needed to prepare for catastrophes.
In response to a question about how crucial information that could prevent tragedy, like a YouTube user with the same name as the Florida shooter making threats to shoot up a school, falls through the cracks, Flinn noted the need for a unified command system. He said that leadership must operate together.
The Pennsylvania State Police has been working to provide risk assessments across the Commonwealth. Since 2016, 97 have been completed for schools, representing about 20 percent of the schools in Pennsylvania. Also, 270 active shooter training sessions have been provided in schools.
At another VAEP Committee hearing later in the day, testifiers from the emergency responder community shared their needs and challenges. Measures to help with recruitment and retention, as well as reimbursement rates for ambulance companies so they can remain viable, were the focus of the discussion.
There was also talk about making career certifications more portable for military spouses, who often move quite frequently – preventing them from working because they move to another place around them time they achieve certification in the new state.
Both the Pennsylvania Civil Air Patrol and the Pennsylvania National Guard Association advocated for funding, citing the benefits provided to the Commonwealth and the return on investment that they offer.
To view footage of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness committee hearings, click here
Representative Stephen E. Barrar
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Alison Evans