When disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma happen, youth can feel frightened, confused, and insecure. Whether children experience trauma personally, simply see an event unfold on TV, or hear it discussed, it is important for us and our communities to be informed and ready to help them.
That is why more than 60 organizations, including Safe and Sound Schools, have affirmed the National Strategy for Youth Preparedness Education: Empowering, Educating, and Building Resilience. The National Strategy envisions a Nation where youth are empowered to prepare for and respond to disasters.
The National Strategy encourages organizations at national, state, and local levels to elevate the importance of youth preparedness, educate youth on actions they should take before, during and in the aftermath of a disaster, and spread the message of preparedness to their constituents and communities. Whether you are a teacher, parent, guardian, or student, you can help build your school and community’s preparedness. Read more about the National Strategy, or sign up to become an Affirmer organization.
Make School Preparedness a Key Component of Resilient Communities
Because children spend so much time in school, we should make school preparedness a key element, and the National Strategy does that. It is important to note that youth preparedness efforts must be age-appropriate, with educational materials tailored to children’s developmental levels. It is crucial that we prepare students without scaring them.
Programs throughout the United States are already preparing kids for disasters in meaningful ways. Many of these programs readily share their materials at no-cost. The Safe and Sound Schools program is an excellent example of how to help students and school communities to prepare. They offer free toolkits, workshops, and other digital resources, which are great ways to take the first steps toward ensuring your community and equipping youth for any disaster.
Some other options include the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Student Tools for Emergency Planning program or Save the Children’s Prep Rally. The FEMA Youth Preparedness Catalog is a comprehensive list of youth preparedness curricula, training, and programs from across the country. It is another smart place to start when looking to bring a youth preparedness program to your school. FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Technical Assistance Center can also answer any specific questions and help you find tools and resources that fit your situation—making the process much more manageable.
Promoting youth preparedness is a key step in making our schools safer, more resilient, and more secure. Look at what programs already exist, and then adapt them to suit your needs. Doing so will help make our schools safer and develop the next generation of prepared students.
For more information and resources about youth preparedness, check out www.ready.gov/youth-preparedness or email the Youth Preparedness Technical Assistance Center at email@example.com.
Charlotte Porter, Director (A), Individual and Community Preparedness Division, Federal Emergency Management Agency
This last week I was invited to speak at the Violence Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Symposium in Corpus Christi, TX by Coastal Bend. I always love going to Texas, the people there are so warm, friendly and make me feel like family. I was really looking forward to speaking with this audience in particular because of its unique makeup. Usually at a conference, you get a gathering of individuals that all work in the same field. This group, however came from a wide array of professionals. We had first responders, medics, school administrations, business owners (i.e. movie theater owners) and so on. The team at Coastal Bend intentionally invited all these different groups together because they all had one thing in common, gatherings of large groups in their community. They understood the benefit that their community would gain by learning to be prepared for the unthinkable. I spoke alongside Dr. Tau Braun, violence prevention specialist and advisor for Safe and Sound Schools, and Robert Martin, expert in threat assessment and Safe and Sound Schools board member. I’ve presented with them previously. They always share invaluable information. Having such a variety of different groups in the audience allowed for the most amazing and diverse questions! It was an honor to speak in Corpus Christi and learn so much from all who attended. I am so proud of the work they are doing to ensure their community is prepared when tragedy strikes.
Alissa Parker, Co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools
As the end of the school year nears, we sometimes forget about school safety. But for those of us sending or thinking about sending our children to summer camp, safety remains a priority. If you’ve sent your child to camp before, you may be familiar with many items on this list, if you’re a new, we’ve got you covered.
Your approach to summer camp safety should be no different than your approach to school safety. So whether you are preparing to send your child to summer camp or looking into possible programs, take a look at the summer camp safety checklist below:
Review the Camp – Think about touring the camp, speaking with a reference, and doing a little background investigation to determine whether the camp is accredited and if it adheres to safety and health standards as mandated by the state and/or city.
Camp Staff – Consider asking about the screening process, as well as staff experience and training. Are staff members subject to background checks and/or drug tests? What types of training are staff required to participate in and what types of certifications do they have? For example, are they familiar with first-aid and CPR? What about emergency training and behavior management? If there are swimming activities are there certified lifeguards?
Emergency Plans – Perhaps one of the most pressing concerns: do you have emergency plans in place? Ask about the types of emergency preparedness plans in place and communication procedures. What types of threats is the camp prepared for? How will parents be notified? Are there reunification plans in place?
Field Trip Safety – Ask about methods of transportation and how field trips are managed. Will camp members split into groups? How do group supervisors/chaperones communicate with each other? What is the adult to child ratio? Is there a buddy system? What is the protocol for a lost camper?
Sun Safety – During the summer children are subject to sunburns and heat exhaustion, how will the camp mitigate this issue? Remember that some camps don’t allow staff members to touch campers, so consider packing a spray-on sunscreen or asking beforehand.
Food Safety – What types of snacks/meals are typically served and how does the camp accommodate campers with food allergies? Does the camp have EpiPens and are there medical staff onsite prepared to deal with food allergy emergencies?
Medical Staff – Are there licensed medical professionals on site? What kinds of issues and procedures are they prepared to deal with? Don’t forget to inform them of any medical issues and instructions.
As you review the checklist, remember to voice any concerns you have with your camp director. Have a safe and sound summer!
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
If a crisis occurs in the school or anywhere in public, it can be a very daunting experience for anyone, especially if they are not prepared. But, imagine what it would be like for a student with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Children with ASD have a difficult time responding to changes or interruptions in their schedules. They not only need structure, repetitiveness and consistent schedules, but they also must have access to the resources and tools to keep them safe.
At The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation, our mission is to help families live life to the fullest. Through our programs and partnerships, people can access the services they need to lead active lifestyles and build their adult independence. Safety and preparation for a crisis situation is crucial for families to consider. This is why it is part of our core mission.
To give parents peace of mind, or at least help them prepare in case of an emergency, we have supported several safety initiatives including ALEC and SafetyNet Tracking Systems. Through Joey’s Fund, we have funded multiple fences for families who are concerned about the safety of their child but cannot afford to pay for one.
ALEC (Autism and Law Enforcement Education Coalition) is a first responder training program that provides an in-depth understanding of ASD to public safety and law enforcement personnel. We have supported ALEC’s Community Days in the Boston area to spread awareness about this safety program. ALEC’s Community Days allows individuals with ASD and their families to meet and interact with police, firemen and EMS in a non-emergency situation in their community. More information can be found through the Arc of South Norfolk at http://www.arcsouthnorfolk.org/alec-first-responder-training.html
For over five years, we have also partnered with SafetyNet Tracking Systems (formerly LoJack SafetyNet) to provide children with autism GPS tracking bracelets through the Flutie Foundation’s Safe & Secure Program. This service enables public safety agencies to effectively search for and rescue individuals with autism who wander and go missing. SafetyNet not only provides the equipment for local law enforcement but offers a comprehensive training program to first responders. The program allows first responders to become familiar with the communication challenges an individual with autism may have and can adapt their search to rescue and return the individual home safely.
Another great resource to consider is Life Journey Through Autism: A Guide to Safety developed by Organization for Autism Research. It is a comprehensive guide for parents on safety issues and strategies to consider. It includes an Appendix for School Safety and Crisis Planning. You can download the guide for free at: http://www.researchautism.org/resources/reading/index.asp#AGuideToSafety
Although we cannot prevent every tragedy or prepare for all crisis situations, we can better protect this at-risk population by educating ourselves and taking advantage of the growing number of safety resources that are available for individuals with autism.
Lisa Borges is the Executive Director of The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism.
The National Autism Association has a lot of great resources and safety products for parents as well as a Safety Teacher Toolkit for educators in need of wandering prevention tools.
The Autism FYI Organization– their mission is to promote a safe environment for the increasing ASD population in their existing communities and is in the process of establishing a national registry for safety.
Autism Speaks – Autism Safety Project
“Crisis preparedness” can sound so impersonal. Manuals. Policies. Procedures. And, yet, the entire concept of school safety is about each person’s experience in the context of a small environment (the classroom) that sits within a larger environment (the school) that is integrated into the broader community (society).
It is this ability—to think through the concentric circles of connection—
that makes a social worker uniquely trained and committed to advocate for
the individual at the hub of the wheel—the student.
As trauma-informed professionals, social workers approach situations with an understanding of potential social-emotional impacts. Through this lens, social workers can provide essential input as to the tenor of school safety strategies, helping to keep drills practical while not needlessly increasing fear. During and after moments of crisis, social workers can provide comfort and strategies directly to students, while being a compassionate support or substitute if a colleague is not able to be fully available.
Safe & Sound Schools recommends that all School Safety Teams should include at least one school- or community-based social worker. Here are some ways a social worker can serve the school in the safety improvement process:
- Identify stakeholders across levels (community level, group level, individual level).
- Build bridges to engage stakeholders during all phases.
- Review literature, summarize best practices.
- Peer review existing plans, programs, and procedures, identifying areas to be re-worked.
- Provide developmental, trauma-informed, and community-aware guidance regarding facilities; policies & practices; and security awareness & training.
- Lead and collaborate the design/revision of existing protocols.
- Review evidence-based research about developmentally appropriate strategies for students and staff.
- Evaluate ethical considerations around implementation.
- Maximize access to community-based resources.
- Prioritize resource allocation.
- Work with grade-level teams to create strength-based, age-appropriate jargon and activities, reducing the risk of drill-induced student trauma.
- Attend to the psychosocial well-being of all stakeholders during drills and crises.
- Evaluate the social-emotional impact and practical efficacy of current school safety protocols.
- Devise and implement measured review of policies and procedures.
- Conduct individual, survey, and focus group venues to gather feedback.
Communities that do not have a designated school social worker can develop a consulting relationship with a community-based social worker. Look for a social worker who works as a child therapist and who grasps your school’s organizational culture. An outside consultant can bring a very helpful, fresh, and child-centered perspective.
Shari Nacson is a Cleveland-based freelance editor and clinical social worker. She specializes in consultations & presentations in child development. An advisor and contributor to Safe and Sound Schools, she serves as author, public speaker, and consultant regarding developmentally mindful school safety strategies.
For further reading about the role of school social workers in school safety, see: