Schools across the nation have spent the summer preparing for a safe school year. Among those preparations, many schools are examining and introducing new protocols such as those designed to protect students and staff in an active assailant (intruder or attacker) scenario.
Recently, a mother reached out for perspective following the introduction of active assailant training at her daughter’s middle school. This mother (we’ll call her Susie) is well-educated, informed on community and school issues, and lives in an excellent school district. She received an email from her child’s school about the new program and learned that school staff had already been trained and were prepared to introduce the program to students the next week. Although surprised at the quick turnaround, Susie recognized the threat of an active assailant at school as a rare one, but like most parents, she could not help but be concerned about the possibility.
When Susie’s daughter came home from school after the training, Susie asked her how it went. “Well, basically Mom, it’s every man for himself,” replied the young girl.
Determined to remain calm and objective, Susie took a deep breath and gently pressed for more information. “How did my daughter walk away with that idea?” she wondered. Susie knew one thing for sure: this was not what the school staff had intended.
We encouraged Susie to share this experience with the school to help staff better develop and deliver safety protocols, instruction, and training.
Throughout the process, Susie shared some key takeaways with us:
- Parent Education and Preparation: Susie first learned, via email, about the upcoming training only one week before introduction. Parent meetings, forums for discussion, and plenty of notice allow for questions, alleviate fears, and build community around new programs.
- Parent Support: The school’s initial email provided parents with some conversation starters to facilitate discussion at home. Susie found this helpful in preparing her daughter ahead of the training. Though afterward, Susie didn’t receive any follow up about how it went or how she could support this new learning at home. Follow-up conversation guides can help parents support student preparedness and monitor their child’s adjustment to new protocols.
- Opportunities for Discussion and Feedback: Susie’s daughter said the training made her feel better about getting to safety in an emergency; but, her daughter had lots of questions following the training. Inviting student (and parent) questions and observations following instruction and/or training is essential to any school-based programming.
- Student Support: Susie learned that teachers introduced the new program along with the school guidance counselor. This let Susie know that the school was attending to the social-emotional needs of students through the process. Guidance and monitoring from school-based mental health providers (i.e. guidance counselors, psychologists, and social workers) can help identify specific student and staff needs for such instruction and training.
We encourage schools to learn from experiences like these, keep parents and students actively involved, and continually examine programs and practices in order to move forward together for safer schools.
Check out these related resources for educators and parents:
The Lockdown Drill, Who Let the Dog In? and Police In Our School, children’s books by Deputy Becky Coyle
Safe and Sound Tools for Safety Education:
Developmental Levels of Safety Awareness
Hierarchy of Education and Training Activities
Stay Safe Choices
Best Practice Considerations for Schools in Active Shooter and Other Assailant Drills from NASP and NASRO
Michele Gay, Co-founder and Executive Director of Safe and Sound Schools
May 15-21 is the 42nd Annual National EMS Week
With school safety concerns top of mind in many school communities, an increasing number are taking necessary steps to develop and improve emergency preparedness plans. As key players in community safety, our emergency medical technicians and providers are an ever important resource to school communities. This week in celebration of EMS week, we shine a light on EMS providers and encourage our Safe and Sound community to collaborate with these professionals for safer schools.
What is EMS?
EMS stands for Emergency Medical Services. EMS professionals provide basic and advanced medical care when people experience accidents or medical emergencies.
Who works for EMS?
EMS is made up of trained professionals including 9-1-1 dispatchers, emergency medical responders, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), advanced EMTs, and paramedics. Each EMS practitioner performs a role in a medical emergency and may be a paid worker or community volunteer. EMS care can be provided by police or fire departments, hospitals, private ambulance companies, or a combination of these.
What is EMS Week?
According to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), EMS Week dates back to 1974 when President Gerald Ford declared November 3 -10, “National Medical Services Week.” For the following four years, the observance continued until it was re-instituted by ACEP in 1982.
In 1992, EMS Week was moved to the third week of May, celebrating the important work EMS practitioners do to our communities. EMS Week brings communities together to honor those that provide day-to-day lifesaving services. Whether you publicly recognize your local EMS department with a catered lunch or award ceremony, or write a personalized thank you letter, EMS Week is the perfect time to recognize and reach out to your local EMS practitioners.
Why should we celebrate EMS Week?
In addition to providing day-to-day basic and advanced emergency care, EMS practitioners also assist in educating communities on safety and health care. For a school, that may mean providing CPR, first-aid, and preparedness to school staff or teaching children about health care, injury prevention, and 9-1-1 services.
How can schools work together with EMS?
School safety is a community effort. It takes all hands on deck. Schools can work together with EMS practitioners by:
- Inviting local EMS departments to visit the school – This allows the departments to become familiarized with the layout of the campus and its staff. Further, it allows students to become comfortable and accustomed to the sight of public safety figures, like EMS practitioners on school grounds.
- Taking a trip – Tour the local 9-1-1 dispatch center or schedule an ambulance tour for students at your school to increase understanding and familiarity between EMS personnel and students.
- Meeting to develop and update emergency preparedness plans – When it comes to emergency/crisis preparedness plans, schools should work together with public safety departments to develop strategies and plans for different types of emergencies and threats.
- Participating in CPR and first-aid training – According the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, the national average response time to an emergency is 5-6 minutes. During an emergency, every minute counts. Learning CPR and first-aid are invaluable skills to have, especially for school community members.
Access our AUDIT Toolkit and check out “A Welcome Invitation” to learn about School Safety Socials for first responders.
Sources: ACEP, NAEMT, National School Safety and Security Services, U.S. Department of Justice
Guest Blogger, Michael Dorn, Safe Havens International
Having worked in the campus safety field for nearly thirty five years, I have never seen as much time, energy and money devoted to school safety as I have since the Sandy Hook tragedy. Formal evaluations of more than 6,000 K12 schools indicate that the results of all of this effort are mixed. In comparing the more than 1,000 K12 schools we have assessed since that attack, to the 5,000 schools our analysts assessed prior, the consensus of our 52 analysts is that while we have seen many improvements, we have also seen many well-intended but harmful efforts that actually increase danger.
For example, there is currently litigation against public safety officials in Iowa because a school employee alleges that serious injury occurred while practicing how to attack a gunman. The plaintiff’s school district insurance carrier has already paid on the original injury claim and anticipates that it will have to pay more than one million dollars in additional worker’s compensation claims from other employees who were injured during similar training sessions. To make matters worse, graduates of this training program have tested worse when asked to respond to dynamic school crisis video scenarios than school employees who have received no active shooter training at all. While education and training for school based emergencies continues to evolve and increase in demand, it is imperative that any such program is carefully vetted and proven before implementation in the school community.
In other instances, school officials have purchased school security hardware and technology solutions with unexpected negative outcomes. For example, a number of schools have purchased emergency classroom locking systems only to learn that they are unsafe and are prohibited by state fire codes. One of our clients almost spent several million dollars to equip every classroom in more than 100 schools with one such device before learning that its installation would result in a fire code violation. It is important that any modifications to the building be considered and reviewed by police and fire officials.
Fortunately, there have also been many success stories. Our analysts have seen numerous examples where school and public safety officials have dramatically improved their school safety, security and emergency preparedness measures. How have these communities been effective in avoiding pitfalls?
The primary factor we have observed involves a formal, thorough and thoughtful all-hazards assessment process. This approach can help schools avoid the often highly emotive thinking that has resulted in the ineffective strategies that we have seen. Taking the time to conduct a proper annual all-hazards safety, security, climate, culture and emergency preparedness assessment can not only help to save time and money, but can save lives as well.
The Author of 27 books on school safety, Michael Dorn’s school safety work has taken him to Canada, Mexico, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Michael serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. Michael welcomes reader feedback at www.safehavensinternational.org