5 tips to keep your schools prepared during a crisis
Being prepared during an emergency can make all of the difference in the outcome. Here are five tips to help your district and schools be more prepared when a crisis strikes.
Tip #1: Communicate during an emergency
Your teachers, staff, and students can’t effectively respond to an emergency if they don’t know they are in danger. By finding effective ways to communicate during an emergency, you’ll be able to provide your teachers, staff, and students with the information they need to make informed decisions during a crisis.
Communication methods like radios, emails, phone calls, and PA systems can get messages out, but they are not always effective when trying to maintain open, role-based communication. During a crisis, your district and schools should find ways to:
- Send out audible alerts to every phone, tablet, and computer
- Communicate via two-way message groups
- Escalate severe emergencies to first responders automatically
Tip #2: Empower your staff
School safety is everyone's job, and in most cases, a custodian or service employee is often the first to notice a situation developing. When your teachers and staff don’t feel like they have the authority to call for a lockdown, precious time is wasted trying to track down someone in charge who can call for emergency action.
Do the schools in your district have a process in place to ensure all your stakeholders have a way to confidently relay information to someone in charge within a moment’s notice? If not, you need to find ways to empower all your stakeholders to relay information quickly and securely. Not sure who all plays a role in the safety of schools? Check out this infographic to discover the roles your teachers, staff, and students play.
Tip #3: Drill and train for emergencies
Running school safety drills give your teachers, staff, and students a chance to become familiar with your safety protocols, and it improves their ability to react in a situation. Be sure all your teachers, staff, and students are participating in school safety drills and are providing feedback on how to make them better.
When conducting yours drills, don’t worry about making them too complicated at first. Just run the drills as slowly as possible to get everyone used to taking the proper steps and following the protocols that you've set in place. Remember, the idea of a drill is to practice like you would play, so use all of the equipment as if it was a real situation. Be sure to also get your local first responders involved so that they can become familiar with your safety protocols and procedures. Once your teachers, staff, and students are comfortable with the steps and protocols for your individual drills, start combining them to maximize your time.
If you need help keeping track of what drills have been scheduled and what drills have been completed, download this drill tracking form and be sure to keep these three things in mind when developing a system to schedule, monitor, and report on your school safety drills:
- Keep a clear record - Find ways to consolidate all of your school safety drill information in one location so you can quickly determine for each school what has been scheduled, what has been completed, and what needs to be done.
- Report on drills - Build a dashboard so you can easily monitor your school safety drill activities. Be sure to include things like post-drill comments, notes, drill type, and location.
- Learn from your drills - Create detailed post-drill reports, so you can review the successes and shortcomings of every safety drill your schools perform. These reports are a great way to identify any necessary improvements you need to make to your safety protocols.
Tip #4: Protect your classrooms
There are numerous products available on the market today designed to make your classrooms and schools more secure. But before you spend your precious budget dollars,consider these simple but effective classroom and school safety improvements that cost little to no money:
- Window coverings - Have window covers available in every classroom that can be easily accessed and put into place. Remember, in many cases a person will not enter a classroom if they can’t see in.
- Doors that lock from the inside - Check to ensure that all of your classroom doors lock from the inside. You don’t want to have your teachers leaving the safety of their classrooms to lock the door during a situation.
- Hard corners - Designate safe areas in each of your classrooms that provide your teachers and students a place where they can’t be seen from door windows.
To see more improvements you can make to your classrooms and schools, be sure to download our checklist.
Please note that you should check with your local law enforcement and fire department before implementing any products or solutions designed to physically protect your classrooms and schools. Letting your first responders know what solutions and products you have in place allows them to be more prepared when arriving to a situation.
Tip #5: Employ the avoid, deny, and defend strategy
Developed by the ALERRT Center at Texas State University, the avoid, deny, and defend strategy can help your teachers and staff be better prepared during an act of violence.
- Avoid - Move away from the source of the threat as quickly as possible. The more distance there is between you and threat the better.
- Deny - When you can’t avoid the situation, create barriers to prevent or slow down the threat from getting to you.
- Defend - If you can’t avoid or deny the situation, be prepared to defend yourself.
For more information and resources, visit the avoid, deny, and defend website.
These tips were originally presented by Daniel Cottner during a webinar titled “Marjorie Stoneman Douglas - Unprepared and Overwhelmed.” To hear more vital lessons and best practices to help your district become more prepared during a crisis, watch the below on-demand video.