Safety Summit

Dianne Gizowski speaks at the Safety Summit at SUNY Oneonta on Aug. 1.

The Otsego Northern Catskills and Delaware-Chenango-Madison-Otsego Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, hosted their inaugural Safety Summit on Aug. 1, with more than 100 regional schools, health and safety and community leaders attending to learn and identify resources to increase protection and to learn on how to prevent mass shootings and other related tragedies.

Partnered with SUNY Oneonta, DCMO and ONC BOCES developed the safety summit to “inspire communications and the development of plans and strategies that unify all of us on the worthy cause of protecting our schools from critical emergencies,” said Perry T. Dewey III, district superintendent at DCMO BOCES and organizer of the safety summit.

The event also featured keynote speaker Jaclyn Schildkraut, a national expert on mass shootings research and associate professor of criminal justice at SUNY Oswego.

Schildkraut’s research focuses on school and mass shootings in the United States in regards to crime statistics, media representations, security and prevention, legislative responses and other considerations that impact individuals and communities struck by those tragedies. Schildkraut also has experience working with individuals associated with shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook.

During her presentation, “Mass Shootings in Schools: Lessons from Tragedy and Opportunities for Prevention,” Schildkraut advised organizations on lessons learned from previous shootings and advanced warning signs to prevent future tragedies.

“One of the struggles with the increase in threats is flushing out which ones aren’t credible, helping to bring light to warning signs so organizations and first responders can respond to them if they see them is essential,” Schildkraut said.

Schildkraut also shared information on the best strategies to protect schools. “The best tool to protect students is lockdown drills as they build muscle memory to help staff and students act when presented with an emergency,” Schildkraut said.

Over the last year, mass shooting tragedies and threats have increased and Schildkraut has consulted with districts throughout the county and country as a result.

“This is a timely event, unfortunately, and post-COVID stress is at a much higher level. This conversation in regards to these tragedies and safety as a whole is an important conversation for everyone,” Dewey said.

The safety summit is a joint effort by ONC BOCES and DCMO BOCES to advise students, staff, school districts and first responders on how they can communicate effectively and how to react during an emergency, Dewey said.

“Ideally, we want this type of event to be annual and to be a continuing part of our culture. We want others to be educated on systems to be proactive about preventing crises,” Dewey said.

The safety summit also featured a presentation on mental health trauma-informed approaches to emergency preparedness and response by Dianne Gizowski, coordinator of staff and curriculum development of DCMO BOCES. It also hosted a panel discussion by county sheriffs, emergency management officers, 911 communications, mental health professionals and State Police.

DCMO BOCES created and led the event with the “proactive goal of connecting multiple regional law enforcement and crisis management organizations to support schools and protect students during emergency situations,” according to the safety summit website.

“Creating a region wide emergency response and communications plan is essential to protecting our students,” Assemblyman Joe Angelino said in a statement on the event website. Angelino was scheduled to be among the participants.

Alexis Ochi, staff writer, can be reached at aochi@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213.

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