School safety continues to be on the minds of administrators, teachers, parents, students, and community leaders in the wake of tragic events that have occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Virginia Tech, and Columbine High School. Some schools are responding with emergency preparedness training, evaluating crisis plans, practicing safety drills, establishing good communication systems within the school as well as in the community, and assessing school security systems.
Many online resources are available to assist schools in creating and maintaining effective emergency plans. Two websites with valuable information are--
The Student Assistance Journal (Spring 2009) features an article--"School Emergency Planning: Back to the Basics: 'Nuts-and-bolts' details make or break schools in a crisis"--that lists how schools should prepare for crisis and emergency situations:
The article continues by stating how schools can enhance crisis preparedness by taking practical steps:
Is your school ready for any emergency? Do your administrators, faculty, staff, and students know how to respond to school violence or any other type of crisis? What steps has your school taken to insure the safety of everyone on campus?
January 25th our K-8 school came together and went into lock down. Our adminstration was notified by the local law enforcement of a nearby community shooting and to be on cautious alert. Our administration has had several practice lockdown; the staff and student body were aware what our responsibilites were and the lockdown went well considering the seriousness of the situation. I am very proud of both the elementary and middle school staff working in collaboration. I want to add that no facility should be "relaxed", but ready to react.
Bertha-Thank you so much for sharing. I am so sorry that your staff and students even had to deal with something like this but I guess it is just something that is becoming more and more common. I am so happy to hear how well everyone was able to deal with this crisis and that is was not any worse than the alert. I think you sum it up nicely that we always need to be ready to react.
In Pasco County, FL all schools have a crisis plan. These plans are located in all rooms. There are also covers for windows that are readily available to place if the need arises. Within the crisis plan is a green laminated paper that is placed under the door stating "All is Safe." Personnel can move quickly through the building and see where help may be needed and act accordingly. We routinely conduct "lock down drills" just as we do fire drills. The drills are instrumental in pointing out things that may not be quite right. For example, if a lock down comes when students are in a hallway, they do not try to get to their individual classrooms, but the nearest available space. Another example is that students should not just be sitting or standing waiting for the drill to be over, but they need to "hunker down" and cover. So many times, one can become complacent. We need to remain alert and follow procedures.
One of the additions to schools in our county is a School Resource Officer in each elementary school. Formerly this was a position only in the secondary schools but due to parent and school board actions we now have officers on duty at each elementary school. As I volunteer in the school each week I have observed the officer engaging with students and becoming a real member of the staff. So I'm wondering if this is common in other schools and what your thoughts are on this additional resource in our schools.
Is it possible that you can suggest to other teachers and administrators in your school that the crisis plan be evaluated to see if it meets the needs of the current students? Sometimes in a school environment, there is so much happening that revisions to existing guidelines such as an emergency management plan may be overlooked.
I consider such a plan as essential and important in every school today, but that does not mean all schools put the same emphasis on this plan. Hopefully, your suggestion will encourage those in your school to re-visit their crisis plan.
I see a lot of complacency regarding crisis management -not just in schools. I work at a public library and would like to see more libraries serve as crisis management centers. We informally support communities when there are storm events, kids get locked out of their homes etc. Power outages occur more often. Not only are schools and libraries important to families with kids, these buildings can and should serve as community centers with provisions for shelter and charging stations in the event of catastrophic weather etc.