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School Safety Center

Frequently Asked Questions

Glossary of Terms and Acronyms


School Safety Planning Requirements

What is required to be included in a comprehensive safe school plan?
As it pertains to school safety plans, “comprehensive” means that the plan 1) addresses all foreseeable hazards that may affect the school, and 2) addresses the elements preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery. Part of a comprehensive approach to safety planning must include outlining measures and policies that address prevention of human-caused trauma or emergencies such as school violence, bullying, suicide, theft, and gang activity. OSPI has developed guidance on safe school plans that may be found on our website, and will continue to help schools develop and refine their safety plans.

Do schools have to report on their plans to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC)?
Public schools must report on their safety plan status as of September 1, 2008 to satisfy the legal requirements. This is accomplished through the school mapping system, better known as Rapid Responder. Additional information can be obtained at:

Do schools have to report on their NIMS compliance? If so, to whom?
“NIMS” is a federal acronym for the National Incident Management System. It is a large program managed by the U. S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS), and the section that operates training programs for DHS is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Only schools that have received federal preparedness funds through the Emergency Response and Crisis Management (ERCM) grants, or other grants more directly from DHS, are required to report on their “NIMS status”. The state of Washington has developed an on-line reporting system, which has had to modify content depending upon the changing requirements from DHS. Schools which have been involved in these grants, or intend to apply for federal preparedness funds in the future, need to report on their status through the Washington State Division of Emergency Management’s Web site (, and click on “Submit NIMS Report” on the right hand column). Most of the school districts that have been funded through this program have worked in collaboration with their ESD’s. If uncertain as to involvement, it is recommended that the district contact the Prevention Center Director of the local ESD for information.

What is the “School Mapping System”?
The school mapping system is the electronic mapping system known as Rapid Responder that is managed by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC). They have information posted.

The mapping system is operated by WASPC, using software provided under a long term contract with Prepared Response, Inc. It includes information for both emergency responders and school administrators. In the event of an emergency at a school, users can access the information via the internet, or they can use one of several back-up systems, including iPad and Android apps. The legislature mandated that all public schools be mapped under this system.

Annual Reporting

When should I update the information in the school mapping system?
Principals should update the school mapping system for their building at the beginning of each school year, and no later than October 15. This deadline will be established in WAC as part of fire code and OSPI codes related to school safety.

Incident Command Training

How does a building principal become certified in the Incident Command System?
RCW 28A.320.125 (SSB 5097) requires school principals to be certified on the Incident Command System (ICS). OSPI has determined that this requirement is met by passing an introductory FEMA course on ICS. Either ICS 100 or ICS 100-SC satisfy this requirement. The principal should have documentation, such as a certificate from FEMA, of passing one of these courses. The online courses and accompanying tests can be found on, or training is sometimes offered by OSPI, the Association of Washington School Principals, local fire departments, or emergency management departments.

How often does a principal need to be re-certified in ICS?
There is no requirement for re-certification or updating of a principal’s training on the Incident Command System, however principals should consider a refresher course periodically to maintain their knowledge of ICS.

Do assistant principals or district-level administrators have to be certified in ICS?
No. The requirements of RCW 28A.320.125 only specify that the building principal be certified in the incident command system. While training in ICS is recommended for all administrators, there is no legal requirement to do so.

Emergency Drills and Exercises

What is meant by a “drill using the school mapping system”?
SSB 5097 isn’t very specific about the “drill using the mapping system”. The intent was to get administrators to access the mapping system at least once a year, so it would be more familiar to them in time of emergency. OSPI has interpreted this requirement to mean that the principal will access and use information in the mapping system during the drill.

Here are some examples:

  1. Conduct an evacuation drill based on a scenario of a fire in one section of the building – the principal accesses the mapping system to determine the presence of any hazardous materials and the appropriate response.
  2. Conduct an evacuation drill for a gas leak scenario – the principal accesses the mapping system to determine the location of the gas shut-off valves.
  3. Conduct a lockdown drill for a possible bomb scenario – access the mapping system to plan a building search or to brief incoming law enforcement teams.

Here are some examples: There are many possible ways to integrate the mapping system into drills. The way the law is written, one of the drills has to utilize the mapping system – it isn’t necessary that there be a separate drill on the mapping system. The best practice would be to access the mapping system each time there is a drill, just to familiarize everybody with its use.

If the school mapping system is used as part of a tabletop or functional exercise, does this meet the requirement for using the mapping system in a drill?
Yes. An exercise that uses the mapping system exceeds the minimum requirements of the law, and is an acceptable way to meet this requirement. Tabletop and functional exercises usually involve only administrators, which is the focus of the drill using the mapping system. An exercise may not, however, replace any of the other required drills, unless staff and students are directly involved.

Does my school have to conduct emergency exercises?
No. There is no requirement under SSB 5097 to conduct emergency exercises, but the law recommends that schools conduct emergency exercises. An exercise is an expanded practice of emergency procedures that exceeds a drill.

Suspension and Expulsion

Over the last few years, the legislature has made significant changes to state laws regarding student discipline. For the most current information on suspensions, expulsions and overall student discipline.


Contact the Safety Center

Safety Center

   Updated 1/9/2017

Old Capitol Building, PO Box 47200, 600 Washington St. S.E., Olympia, WA  98504-7200  360-725-6000  TTY 360-664-3631
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