Colorado School Safety Bill Nearly Triples Senate Cosponsors to 26

DENVER, CO, April 6, 2011 – The Colorado Senate on Tuesday unanimously backed the first school safety bill in the nation to promote statewide communications interoperability that includes all schools.

Senator Steve King’s Senate Bill 11-173, Interoperable Communications in Schools, coordinates new resources from the Governor’s Office of Information Technology, the Division of Fire Safety, and the Colorado School Safety Resource Center to help schools communicate directly with first responders during a school crisis.

After a Senate vote of 33 yeas and 0 nays, 17 senators signed on as cosponsors of the measure, joining the 9 original Senate cosponsors for a total of 26. SB11-173 now moves to the House, where a bipartisan team, Representatives Bob Gardner and Rhonda Fields, will carry the bill.

Before the Senate Education Committee in March, King explained that lack of interoperable communications has led to crisis response failure time and time again. Examples include the Columbine High School tragedy, 9/11, Katrina, and major catastrophic incidents around the world. First responders were not able to communicate with other responders during the crisis. The main reason was that communications devices were unable to talk to one another.

Since Colorado schools now have safety teams trained as first responders, new training and affordable technologies can cure the communications problem, according to King and a multi-disciplinary task force that worked with stakeholders on the bill.

King clarified that, without imposing on Colorado schools any new mandate that would have a fiscal impact, all schools would benefit from coordinated agency efforts to share best practices in emergency communications, identify crisis communications needs at the school level, help target technical assistance and grants, and prepare schools and the public safety community for next-generation communications technologies.

SB11-173 augments Colorado’s School Response Framework that outlines steps schools must take for readiness and emergency management. King sees the Framework as a work-in-progress that must be regularly improved over the years. During tough economic times, King said he would focus on improvements in community partnering that could be made without fiscal impact.

“Endurance is key when you’re talking about changing large systems, continually coming back and moving the issue forward,” King said, “And that’s what we’re doing with a reasonable piece of legislation that moves the ball forward when it comes to the safety of our kids.”

King’s written presentation for the Education Committee is available online at http://schoolsafetysummit.org/interoperable-communications/.

Representing bipartisan support, the 26 Senate cosponsors of SB11-173 are: Senators Keith King, John Morse, Brandon Shaffer, Bill Cadman, Morgan Carroll, Angela Giron, Mike Kopp, Ellen Roberts, Nancy Spence, Cheri Jahn, Betty Boyd, Kevin Grantham, Greg Brophy, Jeanne Nicholson, Lucia Guzman, Linda Newell, Evie Hudak, Irene Aguilar, Mary Hodge, Rollie Heath, Gail Schwartz, Lois Tochtrop, Suzanne Williams, Kent Lambert, Jean White, and Joyce Foster.