School Security and School Emergency Funding

Federal Funding Availability:  Sadly, the Obama Administration and Congress have eliminated the vast majority, if not all, of the federal school safety, security and emergency preparedness planning grants established in the post-Columbine era.  See Ken Trump’s blog article: Obama Eliminates Emergency Planning Grants for Local Schools

While the federal grants have been eliminated, few state grants remain intact as well. Should any substantial funding programs be announced. we will post information here.

Meanwhile, we will leave the below references from past federal Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) grants posted as resource.

REMS School Emergency Planning Grant Insights and Proposal Best Practices
Best Practices in Writing & Evaluating RFPs for School Safety & Emergency Consultants
Our School Emergency Planning Services Funded through REMS Grants
Warnings on Vendors Writing Grant Proposals and Bids

National School Safety and Security Services has worked with ERCM / REMS grant applicants and successful recipients since the onset of the program in 2003.  For additional information on priority areas of the grant, lessons learned from successful grants, and information on our services that can be funded under the grant, see below and feel free to contact Ken Trump with any questions.

REMS School Emergency Planning Grant Insights and Proposal Best Practices

National School Safety and Security Services, based upon our work with ERCM / REMS grant awardees since the inception of the program in 2003, has found the now-REMS grants to be one of the most comprehensive and meaningful programs local education agencies can receive for their schools.

We do NOT provide grant-writing services and we do not prepare proposals for districts for this or other projects. We also do NOTprovide bid-writing services and we do not prepare bids for this grant or other projects.

We DO have extensive familiarity with successful grant recipients and awarded projects since the inception of this program since 2003. We DO know what contributes to a successful REMS proposal and a successful REMS project.

Successful REMS grant proposals and projects are ones which:

  1. Focus on strengthening school emergency plans through training school personnel, students, parents, first responders, and the schools’ other community partners;
  2. Seek funding primarily for the emergency planning process (training, exercises, prevention, recovery, and related) and long-term sustainability of school emergency planning (via training, coordinating plans with community partners, developing policies and plans around parent communications reunification, etc.), which is the intent of the grant, rather than request the bulk of funding for security and crisis equipment, products, etc;
  3. Are well thought out and designed by all collaborating partners on the front-end at the time the proposal is written;
  4. Have realistic budgets for contracted services and activities (consultant fees, evaluator costs, etc.) written into the original grant application that reflect the research of the district’s grant writer on the front-end of applying for the grant so that if the grant is awarded, the district is not grossly under-budgeted or over-budgeted in one or more categories;
  5. Have the support of the district’s superintendent and leadership team so that when it comes time to implement the project, they are willing to have the necessary time and people in the district committed to doing so;
  6. Recognize that this grant, like all other grants, is “seed money” and the recipient must view the grant award, should they get it, as an effort for long-term internal capacity building for institutionalizing emergency preparedness planning at the school district and building levels; and
  7. Submit grant RFP applications written by the school district’s representatives, not outside consultants or vendors.  Some school districts have ignored best practices and related US DOE advisories by having outside consultants and/or vendors with a business interest in providing services under the grant actually write the RFP applications and even bid specs for the district.Ironically, several districts received initial awards under such circumstances, only to find themselves having implementation difficulties and potential legal problems once they got the grant.  These districts realized, albeit too late, that the vendors who wrote the grant proposals did not have the best feel for true district needs and wrote in activities the district subsequently did not deem necessary and/or appropriate to implement once they received the grant award.The best grant RFPs proposals are those written from within the district by school officials who identify their true needs and activities which can realistically be implemented if the grant is awarded to them.

Special attention should be given to sections of the REMS application packet including:

    • “Absolute Priorities” sections outlined in the application packet which must be clearly addressed in the proposal.  For 2010, the Federal Register lists the following priorities:
      a) Projects designed to develop and enhance local emergency management capacity.Projects must include training for school personnel in emergency managementprocedures, plans for communicating school emergency management policies andreunification procedures for parents and guardians, and coordination with communitypartners, and more.

      b) Priority additional points for applicants that have not previously received a REMS grant.

      c) Partner agreements must be completed.

      d) Coordination of plans with state or local homeland security plan.

      e) Applicants must agree to develop an Infectious disease plan.

      f)  Applicants must agree to develop a food defense plan.

      g) Applicants must agree to develop plans that take into consideration the communication,

      medical, and evacuation needs of individuals with disabilities within the schools; and

      h) Applicants must agree to implement the grant consistent with NIMS.

      Read the details for these priority elements in the Federal Register, Vol. 75, No. 5, p.1037-1038.

  • The Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) measures specific to the REMS project (which typically is addressed in your proposal’s evaluation section);
  • Competitive preference points section of the application which outlines conditions under which applicants can qualify for 5 additional bonus points added onto their applications;
  • Selection criteria section of the application which outlines categories, selection criteria, and points allocated per response section;
  • Zero in on key REMS project areas of importance to the funding agency including:  NIMS training and certification (if you are not already certified, explain in the project how you will get certification training); pandemic flu plans and partnerships with public health agencies;  creating or updating a food defense plan with food services personnel; creating plans to address issues involving special needs students; communications and information dissemination to parents; parent-student reunification;  training staff and students; involving private schools; linkage with county emergency management agency; coordination of school plan with state homeland security plan; not having project designs that rely heavily on funding security and emergency equipment and technology, and
  • The importance of the evaluation section cannot be overstated; See below for some best practices.

A sample of best practices and key considerations when writing grant proposals for REMS as shared by past grant recipients and observations of National School Safety and Security Services through our consulting work with districts on REMS grants include:

  1. Project Need – Be detailed and specific in identifying the threats, vulnerabilities, incidents, and issues that demonstrate your need.  Seek data and threat information from community partners such as police, emergency management agency officials, public health officials, and other partners.   Consider the all-hazards approach to school emergency planning, including threats ranging from weather and natural disasters to HAZMAT spills, factories or chemical plants, potential terror targets, crime and violence, and related sources.  Determine if schools are shelters in your community and how that would impact your needs for additional planning under this project.  Review school district specific data such as increases and/or patterns of disruptive behavior, increases in violent incidences, anecdotal high-profile incidents, threat incidents (bomb threats, death threats, etc.), and related information specific to your district and/or target area to be served by this project. Cite past vulnerability assessments done internally or externally. In short, include a lot of “meat,” not generalities.
  2. Project Design – Know the research and best practices in K-12 school emergency planning.  Review and reference in your proposals sources about school emergency planning models and best practices, threat assessment, pandemic flu, NIMS, and other related topic.  Tie this research and these references to  your project need, management, etc. Be sure to include references to the four phases of emergency management (Prevention-Mitigation, Preparedness, Response and Recovery). Read and cite the Department of Education manuals/publications on school emergency management in your application to demonstrate your understanding of their models. Do not forget to include employee support groups such as transportation personnel, food services staff, security and school resource officers, secretaries, nurses, counselors, psychologists, etc. Remember to involve parents and students. Include details on plans for developing a written infections disease plan that includes pandemic flu. Be sure to include development or revision of a written food defense plan and inclusion of food services staff in the emergency management process.Propose comprehensive approaches for your project.  Be sure to have a strong Recovery component to deal with mental health aspects (for both students AND staff) in recovering from a major incident.  Do NOT propose approaches heavy on equipment and technology purchases or your proposal will be at high-risk for rejection. Discuss required areas including how the project will address: The specific needs of individual school buildings in the district; communication, transportation, and medication of individuals with disabilities and special needs; communicate and disseminate information to parents; non-English speaking parent needs, and training and exercise plans with school staff, students, and community partners.  Focus project activities and plans on not only district-level activities and benefits from the project, but how emergency plans will be tailored to each building (training crisis teams, tabletop exercises to get teams to put written plans into action so building plans can be tweaked to their unique situations, evaluations of logistical considerations on parent-student reunifications and evacuation planning, engaging transportation and food services to support local school site evacuations and shelteriing in place, etc.).School emergency preparedness planning is an evolving field where new challenges and new lessons learned continue to arise.  Federal officials are often seeking projects that will increase the knowledge base of problems and best practice strategies to help expand the knowledge of issues in the broader field.  Demonstrate in your proposal how your project might add to the knowledge base, identify new best practices, and provide insights into common problems.  For example, some current challenges facing school emergency preparedness planning include:  How to get emergency plans off the shelves and into practice in school districts so emergency planning is engrained in the school district’s culture (such as unique efforts with tabletop exercises, training, and other initiatives); how to improve parent-student reunification processes in an emergency; how to better serve students and others with disabilities and special needs in a school emergency; how to improve school transportation services in a crisis and improve preparedness levels of bus drivers; how to engage support service personnel such as custodians, food services, secretaries, transportation personnel, instructional support staff, etc.; how  to involve students and parents in school emergency planning; training school administrators on media and parent crisis communications strategies; and so on.  Can you pull in unique stakeholders such as charter schools, Pre-K programs, private schools, and others?  Demonstrate in your proposal an understanding of the current gaps in knowledge, research, and practice in school emergency planning, and how your project may eventually fill some of those gaps.
  3. Adequacy of Resources / Budgets – Have realistic budgets for contracted services and activities (consultant fees, evaluator costs, etc.) written into the original grant application that reflect the research of the district’s grant writer on the front-end of applying for the grant so that if the grant is awarded, the district is not grossly under-budgeted or over-budgeted in one or more categories.  Too often school grant writers guess as to what they believe the cost of a contracted service or activity would be in the haste of writing a grant, only to get the grant and then be way off the mark in the amount of budget needed for such services and activities.  Take the time to seek out information on what potential services and products actually cost before you write the grant budget and consider using higher-end figures in your budget proposal so you have funds to adequately cover contracted and purchased services should you receive the grant.  Avoid  under-budgeting for desired services as it is not unusual to see grant recipients, once they get the grant, to have to back-track with the federal government to redistribute grant funds across different authorized expenditure categories and/or to have to try to find additional money from non-grant school district sources. Be reasonable, do not go grossly over the top, but also do not under-budget.  Your district purchasing process, should you receive the grant, may not require you take the lowest dollar bid, but poor budgetary planning may force you to do so. Research cost ranges up front.Be specific, detailed, and itemized !  Do not “lump sum” huge chunks of dollar expenditures.  Instead provide detailed, itemized breakdown that lead to subtotal category cost figures. Avoid “red flag” items such as requests for office furniture, office rental space, office equipment (laptops, fax machines, cell phones, etc.). Identify in the appropriate places in the proposal the in-kind contributions by the district (office space, furniture, laptops and other equipment, staff time, etc.) to demonstrate the district’s commitment.  Provide detailed examples on sustainability of project goals and activities past the closing of this grant award.Include references to collaboration with community partners, how the district’s plan will be continually improved after the grant, how the district plan coordinates with the state or local homeland security plan (talk with your county emergency management agency), and identify how the National Incident Management System (NIMS) ties in with your plans (also talk with county emergency management agency or local fire department, look at free online FEMA NIMS courses for school officials, etc.).Do NOT name specific product vendors, consultants, or other contracted/purchased sources in your grant application. Applicants should generically refer to the types of services or products, but not name a brand or company by name.  The funding source expects an open and competitive process if the grant is awarded.  It would appear reasonable for applicants to conduct research, though, on cost ranges for the services and products they intended to purchase through the grant so that budgets adequately reflect the amount of resources needed to make the purchase if the grant is awarded.
  4. Project Management Plan – Clearly identify tasks, responsible parties, dates and milestones and more.  Explain in detail (be specific) the roles and tasks for school officials and each community partner that will be collaborating on the project. Be sure to reference the roles and participation of private schools.  Use tables, graphs, charts, or other methods to visually display complex and/or detailed information to make it easily understandable by grant reviewers. Include concrete timelines for implementing the project.  Build in time for start-up and procurement processes related to the project and use recommended time frame stated in the grant application package.  Build in realistic plans for procurement processes (RFPs, RFP review, contracting processes, etc.). Explain how the project is coordinated with the district’s state homeland security plan (check with your state department of homeland security and/or emergency management, for starters). Identify how the National Incident Management System (NIMS) will be incorporated into the project.
  5. Evaluation – The importance of this component is often undervalued by applicants, yet is viewed as highly important by reviewers and federal officials.  Provide as much detail as possible as to qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods that will be used.  Consult in advance with a professional evaluator to obtain help in explaining evaluation methodology that would likely be used in evaluating this type of project.  Very Important: Include how GPRA evaluation measures listed in the RFP will be assessed. Identify how the evaluation process will provide feedback to help project managers monitor the grant implementation and advance the desired outcomes of the project. Reflect a reasonable budget for contracted evaluator services — an area often poorly planned for in budget.  The budget does not need to be huge.  In fact, the the Department of Education advises no more than $25,000 for evaluation on larger grants.  However, it does need to be reasonable and adequate.  Do some advance research on possible price ranges for evaluation.
  6. See special warning notice below on conflicts of interest in having vendors preparing grant proposals.

These points are suggestions based upon experience in working with grantees, on the criteria in the REMS applications, and best practices in grant writing.  The above points should not be a substitute for thoroughly reading the REMS application packet and following the prescribed guidelines precisely and in-detail.

Best Practices in Writing and Evaluating RFPs for School Safety and Emergency Preparedness Consultants

National School Safety and Security Services does NOT write RFPs for school districts.  We do have some best practice considerations we recommend school officials to consider when developing RFPs for consultants to provide school safety, security and emergency planning services include:

1     The most important evaluation criteria should focus on the K-12-specific school safety expertise of the potential consultants.  A minimum of five years experience would be a bare minimum, with ten years preferred.

  1. Request the name(s) of consultants who will be on-site for the project and details on their years of K-12 experience.  (Too often we see some firms who use a front person who may have the experience in schools, but when the work is to be done, they send a lesser experienced person and you never see the person who you contacted with again.)
  2. Require written letters of reference from previous work and who wrote the letters.  Are they signed by policy makers at the upper level of administration, including superintendents?  Be sure to get a minimum of five to ten reference letters specific to K-12 school safety projects.  Look for references reflecting extensive experience over a period of time versus a handful of reference letters from only a few school projects while the bulk of the company and consultant experience is in another, non-K-12  security venue (corporate security, military security, etc.).
  3. Does the company have consultants trained and familiar with best practices in school safety, such as the four phases of preparedness, NIMS, CPTED, etc?

5.   Are the consulting firm and consultants established and recognized in the K-12 school safety field (published books and articles, established presenters/trainers on school safety, etc.)?

Our School Emergency Planning Services Funded Through REMS Grants

National School Safety and Security Services’ services which have been funded through past REMS program grants since the inception of the program in 2003.  Our most popular REMS grant school emergency planning services include:

  • SCHOOL EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS EVALUATION CONSULTATIONS -School emergency planning evaluations and consultation service helps school leaders evaluate school emergency and crisis plans, district and building school crisis teams, school safety drills and exercises, school training on emergency and crisis plans, school crisis communications, and related school emergency planning components.The goal of the multi-day emergency preparedness evaluation consultation is to identify strengths and gaps in:
    1. existing district and building emergency planning processes,
    2. existing district level and building level written emergency plans, and their interrelationship,
    3. content of written plans versus actual practices at the district and building levels,
    4. relationships with first responders and other community partners,
    5. level and adequacy of engagement of key employee groups and school-community constituents,
    6. types, methods, and adequacy of school emergency drills, exercises, etc.,
    7. adequacy of crisis parent and media communications, joint information sharing plans, etc.,
    8. professional development training of certified and support staff, students, parents, and others,and related assessment issues.

This professional evaluation assessment will foster school emergency planning sustainability past the grant period by identifying strengths and gaps in written plans versus practice, methods for improving emergency planning processes and relationships, needs for engaging diverse employee support groups and school-community partners to improve potential for long-term planning sustainability, and focusing on “nuts-and-bolts” best practices that can be institutionalized without long-term dependency upon outside experts and costly ongoing resources.

  • SCHOOL CRISIS TABLETOP EXERCISES – Facilitated school emergency/crisis tabletop exercises for building and district crisis teams, and their community agency partners, in a half or full-day professional development type setting to help schools learn whether their written school emergency / crisis plans might work in a real emergency. Tabletop exercises provide a simulation of emergency situations in informal, stress-free environments. Tabletop exercise facilitators, school safety professionals experienced in managing school emergencies and crisis situations, provide a scenario and series of events to stimulate discussions by participants who assess and resolve unfolding problems based on their existing plans.The goal is to foster school emergency planning sustainability past the grant period by introducing school district and building crisis teams, and their first responders and community partners, to the concept of tabletop exercises as a tool for ongoing use at the district and individual building levels so tabletop exercises become part of the school building and district emergency preparedness culture. This will lead districts to regular action of taking plans off the shelf and putting them into practice in an informal, non-threatening, and interactive professional development setting.  Tabletops will sustain the emergency planning process by making school staff and their partners comfortable with tackling not only various hypothetical scenarios on an ongoing basis past the grant period, but also better identifying methods for managing common crisis elements such as parent-student reunification issues, mobilization of support services (transportation, food services, etc.), parent and media crisis communications, etc.
    1. Proactive school security and emergency preparedness training helps schools with improving school staff emergency management and emergency response capacity, lockdown and evacuation procedures, parent-student reunification considerations, crisis media and communications issues, best practices in security and school crime prevention, engaging support staff in emergency planning and crisis teams, understanding national trends in school deaths and violence, managing and assessing student threats, school safety assessment processes, practical physical security strategies and limitations, heightened security during national terror alerts, and related school safety trends and hot topics. The emphasis is on improving long-term sustainability of emergency planning and school security by increasing awareness, empowering all school staff to evaluate day-to-day security concerns and threats, equipping school staff with “nuts-and-bolts” critical steps for preventing and managing a crisis, and changing conversations within school districts and between schools and their community partners on specific school emergency planning questions, needs, and preparedness measures. Target audiences include central office administrators, board members, support service administrators, district crisis team members, building administrators, building crisis team members, school security staff, school police, SROs, parent agencies,
    2. Support staff emergency preparedness training for secretaries, custodians and maintenance staff, and food services staff.  This program has been designed to be conducted in a series of one or two hour sessions (longer if time permits) per employee group (separate sessions for secretaries, custodians and food services staff) in a manner respective of time constraints for staff release from buildings. Sessions will be specific to each employee group roles and responsibilities in security and emergency preparedness.Secretary sessions will include managing angry and threatening persons, role in access control, parent-student reunification roles, managing bomb threat calls, role on crisis team, etc.Custodian and maintenance staff sessions focus on roles of day and night custodial staff related to security and emergency response, roles on crisis teams for planning, facility information needed in tactical response, procedures for specific emergencies, after hours security and emergency protocols, and related topics.Food services will include cafeteria security procedures, impact of drills (lockdowns, etc.) during breakfast and lunch periods, emergency food supplies, food security and protection measures, access to food service vendors, role on school and district crisis teams, and related topics.The goal is to create an improved awareness of the importance of support staff roles in site-based emergency planning and district level response, and to better engage and empower support staff workers to be more proactive members of school crisis planning teams. Engagement of support service staff will improve the sustainability of school emergency planning by expanding the planning to include perspectives and needs of special employee support groups, and to increase inclusion of these employee groups into the emergency planning and exercising processes to improve crisis response.
    3. School bus security and emergency training helps school transportation managers and school bus drivers prevent and manage violence and emergencies on school buses. Topics focus on preventing and managing violence aboard school buses, “heightened security” awareness and procedures, the impact of terrorism on school transportation safety, bus facility security, roles of transportation services support in site-based emergencies, and emergency preparedness planning for transportation service operations. The goal is to empower bus drivers, the “eyes and ears” of school districts outside of school campuses, to be observant, report suspicious activity, interact more effectively with parents and students in threatening situations, know what to expect and what is needed from them in an emergency, develop response tactics to threatening situations, and serve as more integral part of school emergency response plans.
    4. Managing media and school community communications on school safety and crisis issues training program helps school leaders learn how to effectively communicate school safety and crisis issues with parents, media, and their school community. The goal is to provide techniques for communicating safety and emergency planning issues proactively and in an ongoing manner prior to a crisis to sustain trusting relationships between parents and their school officials. The session focuses on equipping district and building administrators and crisis teams with methods and techniques for communicating in crisis and non-crisis safety situations.  The purpose is to empower school crisis leaders including, but beyond, the designated district spokesperson to be cable of managing an onslaught of parent and media communications inquiries and needs in a crisis.
    5. Parent and community school safety and emergency preparedness training and facilitated community forum meetings. The goal is to provide parents with an overview of critical school emergency preparedness issues related to parents (parent-student reunification, role of parents in emergency, rumor control and management, etc.). This session will provide a brief overview of national trends and best practices in school safety and school emergency planning. The purpose is put school safety and emergency planning in a balanced, rational, and practical context of understanding.The majority of the remaining session will allow parents and school-community members the opportunity to provide input on school safety issues, concerns, and areas of interest to them as a part of the emergency preparedness evaluation process, and most of all for future district planning and long-term sustainability. This allows for community input and provides the district with a visible presence with its school-community to demonstrate its proactive efforts with school safety and emergency preparedness efforts.Meetings with district parent councils, individual building parent organizations, and school-community forum session formats can be held.

    The emphasis of all training programs is on “nuts-and-bolts” fundamentals of school security and emergency planning day-to-day best practices that can sustain school emergency planning without long-term reliance upon costly outside resources. The goal is to empower administrators, teachers, support staff, and their community partners to become self-assessors and self-reliant on security and emergency preparedness practices.

Contact Ken Trump for cost and program information specific to your needs.

Warning on Vendors and Consultants Writing REMS Grant Applications and Bids

We have received a number of reports about questionably-qualified and questionably-experienced large corporations, product vendors, and consultants proactively soliciting school districts to include them in their grant proposals.  Some companies have offered to write the grant for the district, providing the district include their company for the vast majority of dollars received if the grant is awarded.  School districts are cautioned to examine the credibility and appropriateness of consultants and of products vendors selected for use in this and other grants.

Once the grant funding is gone, school districts could easily get stuck with ongoing maintenance and service costs, as well as questionably useful products, if they allow product vendors to write their grant applications.  Furthermore, the REMS grant application references as a conflict of interest a situation where a party prepares a grant proposal and/or RFP for the district, and then that party has a financial interest in awards from that procurement process.  While this may seem to make life easier for districts pursuing the grant on the front end, the potential legal, criminal, political and reputation damaging costs for a “wink and nod” or “gentleman’s handshake” backdoor arrangement could prove very damaging to a school district and its leadership  See the application packet for details and have an open and competitive process consistent with your district purchasing processes and state laws.

Questionable consultants and products can decrease the chance of districts receiving grant awards.  They can also potentially increase their liability, yet school districts are increasingly being solicited by large corporations and product vendors with little-to-no experience in K-12 school security and emergency planning.

We support districts using a fair, open, and competitive selection and purchasing process.

Fore more details on selecting school security and emergency planning consultants:
Read Ken Trump’s November of 2007 School Planning and Management article on the types of school security consultants, selecting school security consultants, and associated issues.

Also see:
Selecting school safety consultants
Potential liabilities associated with using school emergency / crisis plan templates.

Other Federal Grants

Unfortunately, federal funding for school safety is suffering major cuts.  There are a limited number of federal grants periodically available related to school safety, school security, school violence prevention, school emergency planning, and associated areas. School officials may wish to monitor grant availability at the following federal agencies:

Grant seekers may also wish to sign-up for funding availability alerts from the federal grants alert web site.

State Grants

School districts, law enforcement agencies, and other youth-service providers should also contact their state government offices of education, criminal justice services (or attorney general), or similar agencies to identify grant programs related to school safety and security, youth violence prevention, and associated topics.

Other Funding Options

In addition to using Safe and Drug Free Schools Program or other grant funding, school districts and communities are encouraged to collaborate with their safe schools planning partners (criminal justice, community-based organizations, businesses, etc.) to provide resources for security training, security assessments, and related safe schools projects.

Feel free to contact us to discuss specific concerns related to how you can fund our programs and services. Questions regarding specific grants should be made directly to the appropriate federal, state, or local funding source.

For additional information on funding our specific school security assessments or training programs, contact our president, Ken Trump.