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5 tips you should know about safety in your child’s school

What does your schools emergency preparedness plan include?

Every school should have an emergency preparedness plan in place and should include; preparing for drills, evacuations, sheltering and lock down procedures, handling multi-hazard emergencies, having an incident command system and crisis team in place.  Parents need to ask critical questions concerning their schools relationship with first responders and community organizations and protocols of communicating effectively with parents and the media during a crisis.  Student involvement in emergency planning should also be addressed.

Does the staff know their roles in an emergency situation? And are they trained on the plan?

Have school employees received training on security and emergency planning by local, state and or national specialists? Have employees also received training on their school or district specific crisis guidelines?  School staff should know their roles during emergency situations.  Like any team, a school staff should practice locating safe exits, evacuation routes and understanding their individual roles. Schools should plan regular drills to familiarize staff members with emergency procedures and to judge the effectiveness of the plan.  Ask about the number and types of training and drills at your school. Most school safety experts advise campuses to practice such drills at least once a year.

Has the school partnered with its local law enforcement agency to practice emergency response procedures?

Although many schools have crisis response plans, most have not taken time to directly work with their local law enforcement agencies to structure plans and practice drills. Real-time practice scenarios are fundamental to a comprehensive school safety plan. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends these plan be reviewed and updated on an annual basis.

How will I be notified?

Your school should have in place a well-defined process to notify parents in the case of an incident in or at the school. Should something happen at your child’s school, misinformation will run wild. The Texas School Safety Center notes that it is incumbent on the school to provide parent’s accurate, timely information during any school based emergency. Ask what the communication process from your school will be.

As a parent, how can I be involved in helping my child’s school prepare for emergencies?

Student safety will be the highest priority for school staff and first responders in any school emergency. The school will have expectations of you, communication with your school is the key. Most schools are eager to help parents understand their emergency procedures. The first steps to getting involved in your schools safety plans is to be informed about existing security plans and procedures. 

Efficient emergency preparedness plans are frequently reviewed to identify areas of improvement.  Find ways to open communication effectively with school staff, fellow parents and community members in school meetings to best address school safety procedures. Simply ask the questions.  Encourage your child’s school to publish the emergency plan in student handbooks, school websites and distribute to the students with regular school notifications and publications.
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