Michael and Chris Dorn, co-authors of Innocent Targets: When Terrorism Comes to School say the anniversary date of the world’s worst school terrorism attack finds many schools still unprepared to respond effectively to terrorist attacks. The September 1, 2005 attack and subsequent massacre two days later in Beslan, Russia shocked school officials everywhere.
While much progress has been made, the Dorns feel that many schools are still not properly prepared for even relatively minor events, such as tornados and heart stoppages, let alone terrorist attacks on schools or school buses. The international school safety experts feel that significant progress has been made by the release of federal crisis planning grants worth $150 million, given through the U.S. Department of Education to help school systems properly prepare for terrorism and other crises. The new federal guidelines mandating that schools use the National Incident Management System (NIMS) for federal disaster funding eligibility will help schools increase readiness, since understanding NIMS is key to a well coordinated response with outside officials during a crisis. The disjointed response at Beslan contributed to the failure to prevent massive casualties.
The Dorns feel that one of the biggest impediments to further progress has been the proliferation of inaccuracies on how schools should prepare for terrorism. “Unfortunately, many schools have relied on information provided by school safety consultants who do not have any real qualifications in antiterrorism” says Michael Dorn, who writes that this type of misinformation causes schools to implement ineffective and counterproductive programs. “Listening to a consultant without a proper background in the field is like having a mechanic remove your appendix – he may be skilled, but not in the skills you need.”
Having authored more than 20 books on school safety, the Dorns have been involved with school antiterrorism training efforts by state departments of education, emergency management and homeland security in Oregon, Washington, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, Indiana, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Nevada, and the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Education.
Michael Dorn was selected in 2004 as the Senior Public Safety and Emergency Management Consultant for Jane’s Consultancy. Dorn was chosen for this position after an international search for a school safety expert, and was a lead author on the recently published Jane’s Safe Schools Planning Guide for All Hazards, which is the most comprehensive guide to date on the subject.