Safe and Sound Schools
Empowering a Nation of Safer School Communities
Safe and Sound Schools
School Safety: Fire Prevention Week

School Safety: Fire Prevention Week

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:

Recognizing Alarms

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.

Practice Drills

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

 

 

 

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Time to Put the Students in Charge

Time to Put the Students in Charge

Students make the best teachers. They are the eyes and ears of their schools…. the leaders of movements… and the galvanizers of change. In all the years I’ve spent traveling around the country, I’ve met some incredible students who are just as inspired as we are to create a nation of safer schools.

As excited as I was to meet these students, and thrilled that they understand the need for school safety, I felt frustrated that there wasn’t a way for them to turn their ideas into action. So fueled by their passion and bright ideas, we talked to our network of experts, students, teachers and administrators to build a new program: The Safe and Sound Youth Council.

The Safe and Sound Youth Council gives students a seat at the table and brings them into the national conversation of school safety. It is a leadership program, accessible to all, and gives students the support they need to assess their school’s safety, act with smart and sustainable changes, and audit their impact. At the same time, the Safe and Sound Youth Council provides them with a foundation of credibility to help bring their ideas to life.

We hope you will check out the program page to learn more about the Safe and Sound Youth Council. Please also share this program with your networks, especially any students. The faster we can get more Safe and Sound Youth Council chapters off the ground, the closer we’ll come to creating a nation of safer schools.

So thank you to Kaia, Noah, Trey, Makenzi, Colby, Anthony, John, Julia, Olivia, James, and the countless other students who helped bring to life this unique and empowering program. At Safe and Sound Schools, we will never give up, and thanks to the new Youth Council program, we can bring the students into the conversation and foster a new generation of champions who won’t give up, either.


Michele Gay, Co-founder and Executive Director of Safe and Sound Schools

 

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Youth Suicide Prevention: Part 2 of 2

Youth Suicide Prevention: Part 2 of 2

In Part 1 of this two-part blog series, we discussed the popular Netflix show, “13 Reasons Why.” We concluded Part 1 by discussing the alarming statistics surrounding youth suicide, findings that have lead many schools to push for mandatory suicide prevention efforts and training in schools.

At the time of this writing, 26 states have passed legislation, either recommending or requiring suicide prevention training for school personnel. Training requirements vary, but the most accepted standard is:

  • One hour of training annually on the warning signs of suicide
  • School referral and support services for identified suicidal students

The majority of states have only addressed the need for training. However, a few states have also addressed the need for schools to have policies and procedures for suicide prevention, intervention and postvention. Several states have addressed the need to identify high risk youth for suicidal behavior, which include LGBT youth, homeless youth, children in foster care, and children living in a home with a substance abusing or mentally ill family member.

The Jason Flatt Act has passed in 19 states and extensive information is available at jasonfoundation.com. JF, a leader in the suicide prevention national movement, focuses on the need for suicide prevention training in schools. Every state that has passed the Jason Flatt Act can access free online trainings on their website. I am proud to share that with my colleague, Rich Lieberman, we have created five modules for the JF on the following topics:

  • Suicide and LGBT
  • Suicide and bullying
  • Suicide an and NSSI suicide
  • Suicide and depression
  • Suicide postvention

It is very important that school community members, such as administrators, counselors, school psychologist, nurses and social workers, familiarize themselves with the legislative recommendations and all requirements pertaining to their state. These key school community members need to make a commitment to stay current in the field of youth suicide prevention. One way to do that is to sign up for the free Weekly Spark from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. The Weekly Spark provides a summary of trends and research emailed on a weekly basis. School community members can also assist their community by collaborating with suicide prevention advocates, making sure to identify resources for prevention in their community.

If your state has not passed related legislation, then please be an advocate for suicide prevention in schools. If your state passed legislation, then ensure that the legislative initiatives for your state are followed at your school. One place to start is to ask your school for the formation of a suicide prevention task force.

The Jason Flatt Act has passed in the following states: Tennessee, Louisiana, California, Mississippi, Illinois, Arkansas, West Virginia, Utah, Alaska, South Carolina, Ohio, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Georgia, Texas, South Dakota, Alabama and Kansas.

States with legislation for suicide prevention in schools other than Flatt Act:Connecticut, Delaware, DC, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Netflix’s program “13 Reasons Why” caused many schools to take action and alert parents of their many concerns regarding the show’s message and portrayal of suicide, but now it is time for schools to take action to prevent youth suicides by training school staff and developing suicide prevention plans.


Dr. Scott Poland is on the advisory board of Safe and Sound Schools and has a long background in schools and suicide prevention. He is the author and co-author of five books, from the 1989 book, Suicide Intervention in Schools, to the 2015 book, Suicide in Schools. He is the co-author of the Suicide Safer School Plan for Texas and the Crisis Action School Toolkit on Suicide for Montana. He can be reached at spoland@nova.edu

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Youth Suicide Prevention: Part 1 of 2

Youth Suicide Prevention: Part 1 of 2

The very popular Netflix show, “13 Reasons Why” raised much needed discussion about youth suicide prevention in our schools last spring. Many schools responded by sending messages to parents, alerting them of the content of the show and encouraging them to either not let their children watch it at all or to watch it with their children.

Unfortunately, the show had many unsafe messages about youth suicide that many experts believe, will lead to suicide contagion.

At a presentation in Tampa, Florida, shortly after the Netflix’s show aired, a mental health specialist shared that immediately after the show, many adolescents were hospitalized for suicidal actions. Several had attempted suicide in the same manner as Hannah Baker, the suicide victim and show’s protagonist. Here are a few of the many unsafe messages in the show:

  • Suicide was portrayed as a logical outcome as a result of bullying.
  • Suicide was portrayed as an act of revenge.
  • The method of the suicide was shown in a dramatic and horrifying detailed scene.
  • Adults were not portrayed as helpful to teenagers and the majority were portrayed as non-existent or oblivious to what was going on in their child’s life.
  • The terms mental illness, mental health and depression were not mentioned in the show.
  • The school counselor in the show was depicted as non-approachable and non-helpful.
  • The most likable character in the show, Clay, stated after the suicide of his friend Hannah Baker, “we need more kindness in the world”. Kindness is certainly important, but is not enough by itself to help a young person struggling with mental illness.

That said, the beginning of the school year is an opportunity for schools to examine and improve their suicide prevention efforts. Unfortunately, youth suicide is at or near an all-time high. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for adolescents in America. It is important to note that the suicide rate for middle school-aged girls has increased more dramatically than any other group in America according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

To gain a better understanding of youth suicide, many school districts have participated in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey (YRBS) for high school students. Schools are encouraged to review their local and state data. The 2015 national YRBS results indicate the following:

  • 17.7% percent of high school students seriously thought about attempting suicide in the last twelve months.
  • 14.6% actually made a plan to do so in the last twelve months.
  • 8.6% actually attempted suicide in the last twelve months.

This means that in a high school of 1000 students, 86 students have made a suicide attempt within the last year. Those with previous history of suicide are the most likely to make a future suicide attempt. The volume of suicidal behavior for young people results in the necessity of schools providing suicide prevention training to all personnel who interact on a regular basis with students. In fact, there is a growing national legislative movement for suicide prevention in schools. In part 2 of this blog, we will take a deeper dive into the discourse and legislation surrounding suicide prevention as it relates to schools.


Dr. Scott Poland is on the advisory board of Safe and Sound Schools and has a long background in schools and suicide prevention. He is the author and co-author of five books, from the 1989 book, Suicide Intervention in Schools, to the 2015 book, Suicide in Schools. He is the co-author of the Suicide Safer School Plan for Texas and the Crisis Action School Toolkit on Suicide for Montana. He can be reached at spoland@nova.edu

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Alissa Parker Talks About Back to School & School Safety

Alissa Parker Talks About Back to School & School Safety

Back-to-school is an important event every year in my home. It represents so much more than just back-to-school. It means my kids are getting older and naturally that I am getting older as well. There will be new teachers, new clothes, new school supplies! Summer wanes, fall creeps in and life takes on a familiar routine. Of course, for me another topic on my mind when school rolls around is safety. Even when our girls were young my husband and I spoke openly and frequently about safety rules and guidelines. We have had these talks so often over the years that our girls are now able to mimic our “discussions” verbatim any chance they can.

Talking about safety at school has been one of the newer additions to our list of safety conversations. After losing my oldest daughter Emilie to a school shooting, how could it not? This year, our safety conversation was initiated by my youngest daughter Samantha, a soon to be 3rd grader, while shopping for new school clothes.  “Mom, can I tell you something,” she began.  “Did you know there are drills at our school where we have to go outside?!”  I smiled and asked her if she could tell me why they would need to go out of the school for a drill. She explained to me not only why they would need to evacuate their school, but how all the other drills at her school work. Samantha loves an audience and I love seeing her repeat all the safety information she has learned both at home and at school.

When we talk to children about school safety, it can often feel intimidating. However, like most things, the more we practice the better we get. In that one conversation while shopping, my daughters covered not only safety drills but also discussions about bullying and what to do if you find yourself surrounded by strangers. Seeing Samantha take our safety talks to another level and become the teacher herself was amazing. Safety is an empowering tool for children. Having safety rules and boundaries gives them a sense of security and control.  So, if you haven’t already started those conversations with your kids, start now! You will be amazed with the ideas they will share with you and the questions and conversations that will follow. Hopefully, someday soon they will become your teacher as well!


Alissa Parker, Co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools 

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2017 Second Quarter Update

2017 Second Quarter Update

Now that we are well into the second half of the year, it’s time for a second quarter update, covering the months of April, May, and June. Feeding off the momentum we gained during our first quarter, we continued our efforts of empowering communities to improve school safety.  

April was a particularly meaningful month with the release of co-founder Alissa Parker’s book, An Unseen Angel: A Mother’s Story of Faith, Hope, and Healing After Sandy Hook. With an emphasis on Alissa’s faith and spirituality, the book chronicles Alissa’s journey of finding peace and forgiveness after losing her daughter, Emilie Parker, during the Sandy Hook tragedy. An Unseen Angel introduces readers to a caring, wise, and emotionally sensitive little girl whose colorful spirit continues empower her family and many others.

While Alissa promoted her book in April, co-founder Michele Gay was joined by Safe and Sound Speaker, Frank DeAngelis in San Francisco, California. Michele and Frank presented on community collaboration for safer schools at the Sonitrol Gold Standard Safety Symposium.

In May, the Safe and Sound Schools Board of Directors convened in Boston, Massachusetts, to discuss strategy and upcoming projects. Community visits continued throughout May, with Alissa presenting in front of the Northwest Superintendent Organization in Grove City, Pennsylvania. Soon after, Mo Canady, Safe and Sound Advisor and Executive Director of NASRO, attended the Police Week Candlelight Vigil in Washington DC. Around the same time, Michele presented on reunifying the school community and shared her post-tragedy perspective at the 2017 Governor’s Safety and Health Conference Exposition in Kentucky. Soon after, Michele was joined by Safe and Sound Speaker, CJ Huff in Indiana. During their trip to the Indiana School Safety Specialists Academy, CJ and Michele presented to over 900 educators and law enforcement officials, focusing their keynote on community recovery and engagement. In Oklahoma, new Safe and Sound Speaker, Lisa Hamp, attended Moore High School’s Prep Rally. Later in May, Michele resumed travels and was joined by Natalie Hammond and Dan Jewiss in Massachusetts to present for MASBO/CASBO on improving school community preparedness, response, and recovery. May travels came to an end with a trip to the Massachusetts Association of Crime Analysts 20th Annual Training Conference and a trip to a School Safety Conference in Mt Vernon, Virginia.

Although May was a very busy month, community visits continued in June. ​Frank DeAngelis presented at the Oklahoma School Security Conference and discussed school safety leadership. Soon after, Frank traveled to Wisconsin to present at a School Resource Officer Conference. Frank continued his presentations in New York for the New York City Public Schools. This time, he was joined by Michele Gay and John-Michael Keyes of the “I Love U Guys” Foundation. Soon after, Michele and Frank traveled to Iowa to present on their Sandy Hook and Columbine experiences for the Iowa School Resource Officers. June travels concluded in Washington DC where Michele presented at the GovSummit Public Policy Conference, an event hosted by the Security Industry Association (SIA) in cooperation with the Congressional School Safety Caucus.

While our team traveled from state-to-state, our online efforts focused on topics like sexual assault, summer camp safety, online safety, EMS, and celebrating America’s teachers. In June we launched our #100DaysOfSafety campaign for the second year in a row. You can follow the hashtag on our social media channels to receive daily safety tips all summer long.

As we continue to visit communities in the months to come and you prepare for back-to-school, there’s a new resource available for the students in your community: Safe and Sound Youth Council. This complete program for high school students allows them to join the conversation, and more importantly, take action toward creating safer schools. We hope you will share this new program with your students and encourage them to take part.

To keep up with Safe and Sound Schools on daily basis, connect with us on social media.

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