Gloucester County Focuses Resources on Schools and Students
(Woodbury, NJ) – Gloucester County officials held a news conference today to discuss the resources that the county offers to both communicate with residents during an emergency and to help stop a potential crisis before it begins in a school setting.
Freeholder Director Stephen M. Sweeney, Freeholder Helene M. Reed, liaison to the Office of Emergency Response, and Freeholder Joseph A. Brigandi, Jr. announced that in the event of a major crisis or emergency that Gloucester County has technology in place to notify students, faculty, parents and the community via text message. The Freeholders also said that in addition to the available notification technology, there are ‘human resources’ available in to prevent violence in schools and a service that parents and students can utilize to find help if they are in need of crisis intervention or counseling.
The major communications tool the county offers all of its residents, school districts and municipalities is GloucesterAlert. The GloucesterAlert system is administered by the Gloucester County Office of Emergency Management. When an incident or emergency occurs, authorized Gloucester County Emergency Management personnel rapidly notify subscribers on the technology they select when they sign up. There are currently 2100 residents currently signed up for the system who receive a text message either on their e-mail account (work, home, other), cell phone, text pager, Blackberry or Wireless PDA (Palm, iPAQ, etc.). The county offers every school district to utilize the system to administer their own messages for subscribers who sign up to their group.
“We have recently met with Gloucester County College and they are going to be undertaking a major push during their registration season to have all of their students subscribe to the system for the fall semester,” said Freeholder Director Stephen M. Sweeney. Sweeney noted that GCC had a recent bomb scare in which the technology would have helped notify students and faculty to leave campus and when to report back.
Gloucester County College had 5,863 credit students enrolled in fall of 2006 and approximately 10,000 Continuing Education (non-credit) students.
May 3, 2007
County Focuses Resources on Schools and Students
Sweeney said, “This technology is a very effective way to communicate with a large number of people – in the wake of the tragic events at Virginia Tech we want our colleges and schools to be able to get information out to their student body and staff within minutes.”
Freeholder Reed said that currently Gloucester County College, Gloucester County Institute of Technology (GCIT), Deptford Township Schools, Monroe Township Schools, Woodbury Schools, St. Catherine’s School and St. Mary’s School are utilizing the GloucesterAlert technology.
Freeholder Helene Reed said that any resident can log on to www.gloucesteralert.com and follow the simple steps to choose the devices on which to be notified and the types of notifications that they choose to receive.
Gloucester County’s Office of Emergency Response is responsible for delivering messages on the system that pertain to traffic and weather and county events, while participating school districts or municipalities that utilize the system are responsible for administering their messages.
Freeholder Joseph A. Brigandi, Jr. said that utilizing technology to notify residents of an emergency situation in or a school or otherwise was the ‘public safety’ half of working to keep students and residents safe. “There are services available that the county offers within our schools and to parents and students to help prevent situations before they become a crisis,” Brigandi stated.
“After the tragedies in Columbine in 1999 Gloucester County created a Safe Schools Program and hired a mental health specialist to direct the countywide initiative that is shared among our superintendents and districts,” said Freeholder Brigandi. “This is an effective tool that is utilized by our Superintendent’s Roundtable to prevent violence and promote safety in our schools.” 26 Gloucester County school districts participate in this Superintendent's Roundtable Program.
Brigandi said that in addition to the Safe Schools Program, a counseling and referral program through School Based Youth Services is available to residents ages 13-19. The program, which operates out of GCIT for GCIT students and students of the Special Services School District by day, is available in the evenings for all students and parents.
“This remarkable counseling and referral program offers services to students and parents in crisis,” said Freeholder Brigandi. “We want to let students and parents know there is a place they can go for help if they have a concern.”
The School Based Youth Services program is a state grant funded program through the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, Division of Prevention and Community Partnership. For information on this program students and parents can call 486-1445 ext. 2691.
Another available resource that all residents can utilize for a myriad of issues is Gloucester County 211 First Call For Help. This information and referral service is a toll-free community resource providing current information on unlimited types of issues, and referral to available services within Gloucester County and statewide.