301.519.9237 exdirector@nesaus.org

2.22.24 – MACO

On February 21, 2024, Legislative Director Kevin Kinnally testified before the House Ways and Means Committee in opposition to HB 1167- Maryland Center for School Safety- Statewide Secure Schools Emergency Response Program- Established. As introduced, this bill mandates a one-size-fits-all procurement and implementation of an emergency communication platform in every public school through which all school faculty and staff can alert a public safety 9-1-1 center to report a life-threatening or emergency situation.

While counties support the intent of this legislation, procuring a statewide system capable of integrating across several technological and organizational structures is challenging. While some jurisdictions have invested in panic button systems, they have coordinated with county emergency managers and local first responders to support local response processes. However, this bill establishes a one-size-fits-all state procurement approach that will not integrate with local public safety agencies.

As such, the bill sponsor agreed to address MACo’s concerns with amendments to make the bill enabling (removing an unwarranted fiscal and administrative burden on local public safety agencies and personnel), creating and funding a grant program to allow school systems to apply for grants to support local emergency notification and communication efforts, and address other technical and policy concerns.

As amended, MACo takes no position on the bill.

From MACo Testimony:

Following the introduction of a similar bill in the 2023 session, the Maryland Center for School Safety (MCSS) coordinated with the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security to study emergency notification in Maryland schools. The study convened a workgroup of subject matter experts in emergency notification and response, including the Maryland Department of Emergency Management (MDEM), school safety experts from school districts across the state, county emergency managers, and 9-1-1 specialists. The workgroup researched school emergency communications in other states and reviewed publicly available after-action reports from high-profile school-based emergencies.

The results of the MCSS study highlighted Maryland’s existing Text-to-9-1-1 capabilities. They found no evidence that this type of emergency notification program would be effective as a single solution to keeping schools safe. The study identified emergency communication gaps that require more immediate attention and would be less costly and easier to implement.

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