By: John McDonald, Executive Director for Security and Emergency Management, Jefferson County Public Schools, Colorado
Now that school is underway and teachers, students, and staff are settling into their new routines, educators have a responsibility to foster a proactive healthy awareness of school safety. From my years working in security and emergency management, particularly my years in the Jefferson County school district in Colorado, I have developed a quick back-to-school safety checklist. These are the first-five items we tackle at the beginning of every school year.
I hope they are helpful to you, as teachers, staff, and administrators, in setting the tone for the new year. And if any parents or students are reading this, I encourage you to share it with your school. I wish you all a productive, smart, fun, and safe school year.
- As soon as you can (as close to the first day as you can make it), every student needs to be taught what your emergency protocols are in the school. What is lockdown? Where is the evacuation area? What is expected? And if you are in a school where students change classes, you should review exits and protocols in every class as circumstances may change depending on the physical layout.
- Reconnect with your Police and Fire Department to talk strategy and expectations during emergencies. While you are at it, find a time for your local emergency management personnel to talk to the rest of the school and parent community, too.
- Challenge students to find one act of random kindness they can do. When you see something positive, find a way to reward them or lift their actions up. This sets the tone for a supportive and inclusive environment, which not only promotes learning, it makes our schools safer, too.
- Double check that every classroom is clearly numbered on the inside and outside. If you know where you, then first responders will more easily know how to get to you. Make sure you have a “go” bag of supplies in case you need to evacuate quickly. It’s also a good idea to restock some supplies in the unlikely event you need to shelter in place.
- Schedule – and then conduct – a lockdown drill in the first month of the school year. Take your time and do it right. Stop timing the drill. Use the time to train for success and survival. This is about your life and the life of students and staff. Make it count.
Hear more from John about his experiences in this video interview.
Fire safety awareness and prevention remains a key issue for students and educators alike. In observance of Fire Prevention Week starting October 8th, we’ve compiled a few important precautions that you can share with colleagues and students to reinforce fire safety in and outside the classroom all year long.
Fire Safety: Prevention and Knowledge
Nothing cuts down the risk of fire loss like education. Arm your students with the knowledge and skills they need to approach fire safety effectively, including:
You might take for granted that a child understands what a fire alarm sounds like – teach children to identify your school’s alarm early so that they can’t confuse it for any other sound. For students with hearing problems, identify other, non-auditory cues to alert them to a fire emergency.
Escape and Evacuation Routes
Each room should have a sign that identifies two ways out of the room in case of fire. Hallways, stairwells and other areas should also clearly indicate evacuation routes and protocols. Make sure that your students understand not only where the exits are located, but also how to use them. Demonstrate how to use alternate escape routes in an emergency.
Drills are essential in a school environment. Kids need to be taught how to respond to a fire well before an actual emergency occurs. Fire Rescue Magazine offers “homework” for kids to share with their parents after fire education seminars, and it’s an excellent resource for teachers looking to reinforce the message of fire safety at home and in the classroom.
The Right Equipment for Fire Safety
According to the National Fire Protection Association or NFPA, approximately 60 percent of house fires between 2010 and 2014 took place in homes without working fire alarms or smoke detectors. Along with alarms, other equipment can enhance your protection, including:
- Smoke detectors
- Fire extinguishers
- Fire escapes
The NFPA also notes that a working alarm cuts the risk of dying in a reported house fire by half. Installing and regularly maintaining fire alarms is essential to keeping kids and property safe.
You may not have control over the fire escapes in your school building, but check with your building manager or superintendent to ensure that escapes are up to code. Upgrade the escapes right away if there are flaws or defects.
Rules, Regulations and Fire Safety Standards
Public buildings must adhere to local fire codes in terms of occupancy and activity. If you’re not sure about your school’s occupancy limits, check with the local fire department, and conduct a thorough investigation to make sure you’re up to code. You should know:
- When the last time the building was thoroughly inspected
- Where critical signage is located, such as exit signs and evacuation routes
- How many people can fit in the building as a whole and in classrooms and staffrooms
Teach older kids to recognize evacuation routes and to read maps that can lead them to safety during a fire. The U.S. Fire Administration offers a bevy of educational resources to help kids and adults understand what to do during a fire.
Students need to be taught to recognize the dangers of fire – to themselves, others and property – and how to prevent it from happening. “Stop, Drop and Roll” has been the official safety stance of fire education for decades, but that approach is only one line of defense among many. Proper education and a proactive approach to fire safety will mitigate long-term risk and damage caused by fires.
Beth Kotz is a freelance writer and contributor for numerous home, technology, and personal finance blogs. She graduated with BA in Communications and Media from DePaul University in Chicago, IL where she continues to live and work. You can find her latest work here: homeownerguides.com
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