K-12 schools around the country are on high alert due to the shocking rise of active shooters and school safety threats. The tragic news that there is yet another school shooting is unfortunately crossing television screens and popping up on social media more and more often. School shootings have drastically increased over the last 10 years. Between 2009 and 2018 there were 181 shootings that occurred in educational settings. These events are causing widespread panic and nerves for school administrators, educators, students, and parents.
The question many ask is: “Could this happen at my school?”. Stacey Heaver, a Colorado elementary teacher, talks about the uptick of mental health concerns and the worry that her students are now living in constant fear. Heaver’s daughter even confided in her that after the Sandy Hook School Shooting she had sought out and found places to hide in every room in her school. With the recent shooter threat in Colorado shortly after the Columbine 20 year anniversary, Heaver received the following texts from her students and daughter. “Hey, sorry to bother you but I am worried about this woman, what are your thoughts?” “Do you think it is safe to come to school tomorrow?” “Mama, I am terrified to go to school tomorrow.” The fear these students feel is truly heartbreaking. So, what can your school do to instill confidence with faculty, students, and parents? The answer is: share and practice your school safety drill plans.
3 School Safety Drill Best Practices
Conducting efficient school safety drills is one way to prepare both K-12 school faculty and students in the event of a school safety threat or active shooter event. Perfecting your emergency response blueprint by planning ahead, continuously running drills, and ensuring your communication strategies are in place, are three ways to make sure your school is prepared.
- Plan Ahead
Planning ahead for any school safety threat or active shooter incident is extremely important. There are several factors to consider in your school safety drill plan.
- Your K-12 school should have a school safety team in place with leaders in charge of different tasks whether it be escorting students during an evacuation, or manning the school announcement system.
- An assessment should also be conducted on the school culture and climate to determine what crises may occur. For example, we recommend noting any bullying incidents and the rate of bullying over the course of the year.
- Lastly, be sure to be mindful of students or staff who may have experienced prior traumatic events or those who may need special attention during a school safety drill or the real safety threat event. These individuals may need their own emergency plan and drill plan. Alice Training Institute recommends having school mental health professionals available to help
Our School Safety Drill Kit has specialized outlines for several safety threats a school may encounter including an active shooter, severe weather event, or medical emergency.
- Develop Your Communications Strategy
Communication is key! Implementing an efficient communication plan is important before, during, and after a school safety drill. Consider the following:
- How can you communicate quickly with your entire school community?
- What technology can help when communicating with law enforcement?
The Rave Panic Button automatically delivers notifications to staff, 9-1-1, and first responders with the touch of a button. It provides critical data such as contact information, floor plans, and emergency response plans, which can speed up response times when seconds count.
- Practice, Practice, Practice
Your K-12 school should continuously practice several types of school safety drills, whether it be a fire drill evacuation or an active shooter drill. Firstly, make sure ALL faculty are on board, and that your school safety drill doesn’t go too far. In Indiana, teachers came forward to report they were asked to “kneel down against a classroom wall, before being shot across their backs with airsoft guns.” They left that day with welts and bruises. These methods may be a too much when it comes to practicing active shooter drills.
By practicing different types of drills your school safety team can identify what additional training may be needed, how each drill integrates with other school safety efforts, how current and prior training knowledge can be maintained, and how often follow-up drills should be conducted.
Planning and preparing for school safety drills, running different practice drills, and testing & developing your communication strategy are all ways to instill confidence in your school. By using the above best practices, your K-12 school or district will be ready for any emergency.
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