There is no weightier responsibility for school administrators than ensuring the safety of students and teachers, and today it’s more important than ever to adequately prepare for emergency situations.
Here is a brief introduction to the topic of emergency preparedness and some of the solutions available to schools today. Being prepared for emergencies goes far beyond a single article or individual point of view, and schools are advised to seek expert counsel to ensure that they are adequately prepared for emergencies.
What is Emergency Preparedness in Schools
The Department of Homeland Security defines emergency preparedness as the “continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action in an effort to ensure effective coordination during incident response.” While not specifically referring to schools, this definition is an excellent one that fully encompasses all of the critical aspects required in school emergency preparedness.
What Should Emergency Preparations Include?
Emergencies take many forms and can range in severity from snow storms to natural disasters to an active shooter event to a lockdown event happening on or around school property. No matter the situation, the key takeaway for schools is to create a detailed response plan for what to do in any incident.
Each state or district may prescribe different formats for emergency preparedness, but generally speaking emergency preparedness involves four main elements:
- Creating an emergency response plan for a wide variety of events that is reviewed and updated regularly.
- Forming an emergency response team that is specially trained to step up and take charge in the event of an emergency.
- Developing a communications plan to quickly notify teachers, students, and parents of an emergency and pass along relevant instructions for how to respond.
- Rehearsing responses to emergency situations to build awareness and understanding of the correct response and identify gaps and areas of improvement in your preparation.
Why are Emergency Plans so Important?
When high-pressure or unexpected events occur, the quickness and effectiveness of our responses can suffer dramatically due to shock or a sense of uncertainty. The huge advantage of an emergency preparedness plan is that it forces schools to confront the wide variety of events and incidents that they may experience and create a thoughtful step-by-step plan for the ideal response to each. By knowing exactly what to do, you can improve the overall quality of your school’s response to any incident.
A parallel example of this type of training is the safety briefing that takes place at the beginning of a flight. While you hope to never have to use this knowledge (likewise in a school situation), you are inherently better-prepared by knowing that the seat cushions function as floatation devices, that you should put your air mask on before helping others, and that the floor has lighting guiding you to the exits. School planning is just that: arming you with the knowledge to respond correctly to an unexpected event.
How Often Should Schools Do School Emergency Drills?
Your school district or state may recommend different frequencies of conducting safety, fire, or lock-down drills, but generally it is best to hold various drills at least once every six months. However, some organizations are now making the move to more frequent drill schedules, such as once every three months. The key is to foster a culture of emergency preparedness that keeps safety top of mind.
Tips for Preparing Your School for an Emergency
The very first step to improving your school’s readiness for an emergency is to recognize the importance of preparation. Administrators can channel this passion for school safety into clear, actionable steps, such as:
- Contracting with specialists to evaluate your school’s readiness
- Creating a clear and actional readiness plan
- Regularly reviewing your preparations with administration and faculty
- Fostering a culture of safety and readiness with regular drills
- Collaborating with other schools and districts to share knowledge and ideas
- Upgrading your school technology and response tools
How Technology Can Be Used in School Emergency Preparations?
Improving safety in schools is a hot topic today, and technology can be a school’s number one ally in early notification and response to an incident. As technology usage continues to skyrocket in the classroom, so does the need to be able to leverage these devices as early warning systems and communication channels.
Here are just a few technologies schools are using today and how they are using them:
- Cameras – One of the most basic technologies in use today are camera systems. Properly implemented and monitored, cameras can give school security and administrators an advanced warning of any potential emergency.
- Metal detectors and other detectors – Some schools are implementing metal detectors to prevent weapons from being brought into schools, and there are a large number of companies and individuals exploring gun detector technology that can detect whether a gun is anywhere in a particular camera frame.
- Emergency notification systems and intercoms – Many schools today have an emergency notification system that allows school officials to send emergency notifications via text, computer push notifications, emails, phone calls, and more across the entire school.
- Card-access locks – Entrances and exits are now easily securable via card-access sensors that ensure only authorized individuals are able to enter or exit a building or room, and many schools are taking advantage of this technology.
Additional Emergency Preparedness Resources for Schools
The great news is that your school is not alone when it comes to emergency preparedness and there is a plethora of resources at your fingertips. Here are just a few resources for in-depth exploration on this topic:
- Emergency Preparedness for Schools: This article from AccreditedSchoolsOnline.org provides detailed lists and readiness plans for a wide range of emergencies that schools may face.
- DHS Campus Resilience Program: DHS offers a variety of resources for schools to work together with DHS on a variety of issues facing campuses all across the country today.
- Can Technology Make Schools Safer: There are a lot of questions around technology in schools, ranging from whether cell phones should be allowed in schools to how to use technology to our advantage for incident response. This resource provides some helpful insights into many of these questions.
- School Disaster Preparedness: The Red Cross has an excellent program for schools to prepare their communities for disasters. They also offer a Ready Rating Program for schools to quantify their preparedness.
How Clear Touch Interactive is Helping Schools Prepare for Emergencies
Our technologies are not only helping educators and students excel at teaching and learning, but they are also part of many schools’ emergency preparedness plans. Clear Touch Command™ is one example of our company’s commitment to providing great technology solutions that can be part of a holistic vision for our educational institutions. This technology can play a critical role in your emergency preparedness plan by allowing you to rapidly deploy notifications to all of your interactive touchscreen panels.
Together, we can build safer schools and school cultures where students, faculty, administrators, and parents can all have confidence that the utmost preparations have been taken to ensure the safety of everyone. For more information on how our technology can function within your schools’ emergency readiness preparations, please contact our solution experts.