Promoting a safe school environment, and improving emergency preparedness, are not separate endeavors. They are integral to building a system of support for all, from the students and their parents, to the staff, faculty and the community at large.
While it’s challenging to be completely safe or immune, for every situation, a collaborative approach to emergency planning and prevention will enhance confidence and safety and schools.
Here’s a simple, actionable list of strategies to start building a secure, safe and healthy school environment today.
1. Develop an active school safety team
The safety and crisis team should, at a minimum, include principals, school mental health professionals, school security personnel, appropriate community stakeholders (such as representatives from local law enforcement and emergency personnel), and other school staff or district liaisons to help sustain efforts over time.
2. Draft crisis and emergency preparedness plans
Having an actively engaged school safety team leading this effort will mobilize community support before, during and after an emergency. It’s also important to note that these plans must be consistently reviewed and practiced. Below are some mission-critical activities that should be covered in the school crisis and emergency plan and promote a safe school environment:
- How to minimize unsafe behaviors such as bullying, fighting, and risk-taking by providing quality prevention programming.
- How to Improve early identification and support for students at risk of harming themselves or others (e.g., threat assessment).
- How to provide consistent, ongoing training of all school staff.
- How to address the range of crises that schools can face with a focus on what is most likely to occur (e.g., death of a student or staff member, school violence, natural disaster).
- How to improve response to crises when the unpreventable occurs.
- How to facilitate a return to normalcy following a crisis or emergency.
- How to promote efforts for ongoing learning and long-term emotional recovery for every student and family.
3. Practice emergency communication
Distributing timely and accurate information to those directly involved will allow quick reactions to an incident. The school’s Emergency Notification System (ENS) is one of the best ways to alert and instruct students, staff, and parents. It is important to have multiple personnel and community leaders who are trained to use the system before, during, and after emergency drills.
4. Involve parents and students
Students are an important source of information and ideas. Their input is significant to enhancing your school’s awareness and readiness during emergencies. Empower students to actively participate in as many aspects of emergency response as possible such as reporting possible dangers, helping during the response, and keeping their parents calm.
Parents also play a crucial role in getting students home safely. Sharing directions with parents on what they should do in the event of a crisis can be helpful. Hold meetings and send out information to align parents on procedures they should follow before, during, and after an emergency event.
5. Codify emergency awareness through training
As fire drills are always on the calendar, using them to train on new emergency procedures is a good opportunity. Take advantage of this time to introduce alternate evacuation routes, first aid, and search and rescue training.
This is also an opportunity to train student leaders and staff on the inner workings of school facilities, i.e. where to locate gas, water, electrical, and HVAC system shut-offs. Just as importantly, know who carries the keys. What would you do if they weren’t there in an emergency? Inspect emergency supplies for serviceability and expiration.
6. Have a plan for non-school day activities
Field trips, sports, and other off-campus events are times when emergencies can happen and cause serious chaos. Make sure to include procedures and practices that cover these.
Research. Seek out tips and information on new technologies, changing procedures, and ideas that will help make your school better prepared. Safety is a battle that is won through preparation.
7. Include regular emergency planning during routine staff meetings
The weekly school staff meeting is an opportunity to reinforce procedures, identify gaps, and address new issues. Assign specific emergency responsibilities to staff. Splitting up important tasks to individuals will speed up your school’s response time. Duties such as shutting off utilities, taking roll and caring for students, providing first aid treatment, contacting outside resources and monitoring information are just a few procedures that can be made more efficient with dedicated roles.
8. Employ Effective, Positive School Discipline
School discipline policies are ultimately the responsibility of the school principal; however, all school staff play a role in their effective development and implementation. When positive discipline is incorporated into the learning plan, students feel respected and supported, positive behavior is continually reinforced, and the school safety climate improves.
9. Provide access to crisis counseling
It’s important that students, parents and staff know that the school can be relied upon for emotional and mental support in case of a crisis. Administrators must have a plan in place for addressing a range of emergencies that schools can face with a focus on what is most likely to occur (e.g., death of a student or staff member, school violence, natural disaster) and improve responses when the unpreventable occurs.
Ensure that the plan includes a process for assessing risks to the school and the learning environment, promoting a return to normalcy following a crisis or emergency and ongoing learning and long-term emotional recovery for every student and family.
10. Enable Safer Environments Through Technology
From fire and weather to active shooter and custom events, HAVRION keeps you and those around you safe and informed. HAVRION is an innovation partner that addresses some of the most pressing public safety challenges through a combination of applied technology, complex communication and alert systems.
Alert | Safety First
ALERT is our activation system, which includes a 24/7 mobile panic button app. ALERT delivers alerts of emerging situations to authorities and 1st responders while providing instructions to potentially affected individuals and alerts to key stakeholders.
Connect | Reducing the Vulnerability Gap
CONNECT is our complex communications and messaging system. CONNECT is in charge of rapidly delivering critical, customizable information across digital displays and other audiovisual devices during emergencies or other events of communal interest.
Detect | Staying a step ahead
DETECT is our collection of sensors and devices that automatically detect emergency situations and activate response systems. DETECT works in conjunction with HAVRION ALERT and CONNECT.
HAVRION Hub (or HHUB) is our cloud-based real-time Command Hub emergency events management system. It is a centralized real-time command hub and event management system delivering a rich set of integrated management applications and connected devices for centralized visibility and granular control of any of the recommended solutions
Book a meeting to learn more about advanced emergency management solutions.