There are growing risks and threats to school safety now more than ever. As a community, we need to be more proactive in making our schools a safe and peaceful environment for children to learn. To prepare for emergency-type situations, educators rely on what they do best – teaching students, their families and staff on school safety procedures by making emergency drills a habit-forming activity.
Definition and Purpose
Drills are basically rehearsals of the safety procedures put in place in response to emergencies such as natural disasters, building fires, active shooter lockdowns, and more. Emergency drills teach students the actionable steps to quickly and safely respond in the event of a crisis. Drills also train school personnel how best to organize, communicate and lead others to safety.
Drills are important for evaluating effectiveness, for example – how well do students understand the procedures, how quickly do they act on evacuation instructions, how fast can first responders get to the site of the emergency, and so on.
While drills are critical practice to ensure preparedness in the event of a real-life emergency, it must be done with the utmost care and caution so as not to harm students psychologically – especially young children. Here are some guidelines for starting a conversation with kids about emergency drills without scaring them:
Ask kids what concerns or upsets them about the subject of emergencies, shooting and weather disasters, crisis events and so on, to help you frame your approach.
2. Speak Calmly
Check your tone and body language when speaking about a difficult subject. Be truthful and speak in a calm and even tone. Present yourself as a supportive and caring adult.
3. Demonstrate The Value of Cooperation
Show kids the importance of following instructions during an emergency and how working as a group will lead everyone to safety.
4. Show and Tell
As you know, kids are visual learners and a long, boring lecture on emergency procedures is not the way to go. Invite a firefighter, watch a movie, tell a story about emergency events in the past and what we learned from them.
5. Make Emergency Preparedness A Regular Conversation
To create a safety-first culture in school, talk about emergency preparedness on a regular basis. Make it a standard practice to have a short Q&A on emergency preparedness at the end of every school week, for example.
There are many forms of training students and staff to respond in an emergency. Safeandsoundschools.org recommends a gradual progression of activities to teach resilience and preparedness through regular emergency drills. The following are examples of teaching activities from the most basic (suitable for young children) to the most advanced (for school emergency managers and first responders).
● Introductions: Activities include job fairs and field trips involving first responders.
● Orientations: Classroom and building tours to show possible exits, location of alarms, first aid materials, light switches, etc.
● Social Stories, Storyboards, Videos: Visual materials of safety protocols, dramatization of emergency scenarios.
● Table-Top Activities: Q&As on crisis scenarios and the right emergency response
● Walk-throughs:Rehearse the necessary steps in an emergency, a.k.a “slow motion drill”
● Pre-announced Drills: Announced rehearsals of emergency responses and protocols
● Unannounced Drills: Surprise emergency response activations *Not recommended for active shooter drills”.
● Full-scale Drills: All-hands-on-deck rehearsals –students, personnel, emergency responders and district-level support.
● Simulations: Create complete, realistic emergency environments and rehearse responses.
Advanced Simulations: Designed to simulate highly stressful emergency conditions and stimuli for trained emergency responders.
Practice Makes Perfect
While we wish that a crisis will never befall our schools and communities, the reality is that emergency drills ensure that everyone is prepared and protected when the worst happens. Training builds confidence in staff and students and reduces fear and panicking during actual emergency situations.
Emergency Drill Management by HAVRION
Clear, rapid communication drives effective emergency management. And having the right tools to facilitate it, ensures that drills are carried out as planned to prepare the school population for the real emergency.
CONNECT by HAVRION displays customized evacuation maps, instructions, or other communications directly on digital screens. From lockdowns to evacuation holds, to health and wellness bulletins, Havrion utilizes Samsung displays for front-of-classroom communications as well as directly on Thermal Protect kiosks to keep your community safe. Schedule a virtual demo today.