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School Safety Homework

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School Safety Homework

Dennis Lewis
Date of Post
Sep 27, 2009

School Safety Homework - Make Sure You Make the Grade

Everyone in the school business has homework and school principals are no exception; however, some of us are not getting our homework done in a timely manner. And for school administrators who procrastinate and fail to complete all assignments, it may result in more than just a "bad grade". 

A study by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute indicates that many schools are unprepared related to disasters, particularly those that would affect large numbers of students and community members. This study surveyed 3,670 school superintendents throughout the United States and found the following: 

  • More than half of the districts do not use any type of student identification badge system.
  • Half of the districts do not utilize a staff identification system.
  • 30% of the superintendents have never conducted an emergency drill.
  • Few districts have written protocols for dealing with children with special needs during a disaster situation.

It would be a rare school that does not have a crisis plan that covers a myriad of crisis circumstances; but it appears some districts are still "behind the curve" when it comes to preparing for a disaster event that involves more than just the immediate student and staff population.

We suspect the primary reason schools have not adequately planned is a lack of knowledge related to steps in the process. As any student knows, the hardest part of completing one’s homework is mustering the willpower to get started. So we would suggest using the following guidelines to school principals and superintendents.

  • Begin by reviewing all existing crisis planning documents to verify where the plan may be lacking. While the plan probably provides for sheltering in place students for a relatively short amount of time, consider what you would need to do to shelter a larger community such as area residents.
  • Speak with local emergency management providers and familiarize yourself with the county or municipal plans. These disaster coordinators have the resources and training that can help to bridge the gap between your school and greater community plan. Be sure to ask about a pandemic event and seek their advice related to planning, provisions, and preparedness.
  • Update school floor plans after renovations and ensure that these plans are provided to law enforcement and community agencies. Additionally, invite law enforcement into the school to walk the building and become familiar with the "lay of the land". Provide law enforcement with digital pictures of the school so that a virtual tour is possible during an emergency situation.
  • Use tabletop exercises to test the plan. While full crisis preparedness drills are helpful, they are often time consuming and impractical. Tabletop exercises can provide much of the same type of feedback without all the disruption.
  • Be sure to include support staff in the planning and training. Bus drivers, secretaries, food service, and custodial personnel would be an integral part in an emergency response and their advance preparation is critical.
  • Ensure crisis plans are updated related to students or staff with special physical, educational, or medical needs. This may include individuals in wheelchairs, those with fragile medical conditions, hearing impaired, visually impaired, etc. When finalizing these arrangements be sure to include parents, the school nurse, classroom teachers, and administrators.
  • Make certain parents are informed related to relocation sites and student check out procedures. In addition, make sure student and staff emergency contact information is current and accessible off campus. Because families may change cell phone providers, employment, or personal residence during the school year, it is advisable to update the information in the fall, as well as confirming that the information is still accurate at the beginning of the second semester.
  • If your district does not currently require student or staff identification badges, we would recommend exploring the possibility. Even in relatively small communities transporting individuals to medical facilities could be more expeditious if picture identification of victims was readily available.

As you read through any of our articles on school safety you should always ask, "Will this play in Peoria?" In other words, are the suggestions practical for your particular school and community? While not all may seem to resonate immediately, it is a safe bet that some of the suggestions should be explored and are worthy of your follow-through. 

Plan ahead, be prepared, do your homework, and be ready for school. It is always better to be safe than sorry.


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