As a school administrator, how do you know if you’re taking every precaution to ensure safety in your school? More importantly, do you know what you’ll do to keep students and staff secure during an emergency - and do you have the resources to carry out each plan?
Rave Mobile Safety addressed these questions and more during its webinar “Pass the Safety Test: Preparing for the New Climate in School Emergencies”. This hour-long panel discussion featured 911 Director of Communications for Newtown, Connecticut, Maureen Will and Todd Johnson, Chief Deputy of Newberry County, South Carolina.
While Todd and Maureen had plenty of advice on important elements of school safety like budgeting, collaboration and technology, a few of their points in particular stood out. Here are six essential takeaways from their discussion.
Six Ways to Prepare for the New Climate in School Emergencies
1. Prepare both on and off paper
It’s one thing to write down your plan of action for school emergencies. However, writing out plans alone does not mean your school will be ready to take action during a drill or actual incident.
If you’re not comfortable executing your existing plan, it won’t be successful. Get real-world experience by holding tabletop drills so everyone can learn first-hand which jobs they will be responsible for during an emergency, what to do depending on the time of day or where they are in the school, and who they need to alert during an incident or practice drill, such as local law enforcement or 9-1-1 call centers.
2. Communication is key
Do you have a relationship with your local public safety agencies, 9-1-1 call centers, your chief of police, fire chief, and other safety officials? If not, it’s time to start getting to know them!
Communicating with these officials is an important element of school safety. These are the teams and people that you need to alert if an incident occurs at your school. They should have access to knowledge such as your procedures for reacting to each type of emergency, the layout of your school, and the names and contact info of important decision makers on your staff. It’s also crucial to notify officials when your school will be running a drill, so that they don’t think that there is a real emergency that they need to respond to.
It’s ok to start small as you build your relationship with them. Just make sure that you have one, so that everyone can collaborate for better, more effective school safety plans.
3. Choose the right technology
There are many choices when it comes to school safety technology. However, only a limited portion of those options will actually make a difference.
While there’s no perfect, one-size-fits-all choice when it comes to school safety tech, it is possible to find a flexible option that addresses and alleviates all of your challenges, concerns and blind spots.
When researching technology, keep in mind that no technology can completely prevent an incident from occurring. You also need to ensure that you have tech on hand that can help you respond to an event, not just prepare for it. Also keep in mind that while some solutions can sound good on paper, they don’t always translate to real-life application.
4. Drills, drills, drills
Emergencies can strike at anytime, which means your students and staff can be anywhere in the building when an incident occurs. Therefore, it’s important to conduct safety drills during non-traditional times and situations.
Don’t just hold drills when students are in the classroom. Make sure they know what to do if an incident occurs when they are in other locations, such as on the school bus or outside on a sports field. Conducting drills at different times, when students are in various locations, is so vital that South Carolina mandates that each school in the state conduct at least two drills per year, with one of those drills conducted in a non-traditional setting.
5. Keep parents in the loop
You already know that it’s essential to have a good relationship between schools and the parents of students. However, parents can also hinder or harm school safety efforts if they don’t know proper procedures.
Inform parents that if there is an emergency at the school, showing up at the school to help or pick up their child can complicate rescue procedures or even put them at risk. Parents should have access to information about where to pick up their children if the school is evacuated, and they should also be kept informed of what’s happening at the school by a staff member. Otherwise, parents have been known to dial 9-1-1 to gather more information, hindering communication efforts and keeping call takers from addressing more important issues.
For parent communication best practices, be sure to check out Todd Johnson’s excellent brochure for Newberry County on rules and restrictions for parental involvement.
6. Prepare for all kinds of emergencies
While stories about active shooters in schools may be unfortunate headline news, the truth is that there’s many types of less newsworthy emergencies that schools still need to be prepared for.
Think about what you will do to manage emergencies, such as inclement weather or medical events. Also check that you have technology that can help you respond to any type of incident. For example, Newtown uses the Rave Panic Button to respond to medical events, such as injuries during football practice, but it can also be used to take immediate action during other types of emergencies as well.
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