When we drop children or grandchildren off at school in the morning, we assume they will be taken care of and protected.
But when we hear about tragedies that have occurred in schools around the country, we cringe and pray it will never happen to our loved ones.
Whether it’s a disturbed person who does others harm or an extreme weather event that affects the school, we hope school officials will do everything in their power to keep the kids safe.
But we can do more than hope and pray. We can learn – in advance – as much about the school’s safety procedures as possible.
Here are five recommended school safety questions every parent or grandparent should have answered. They come from the website Military.com.
When was the last safety and security assessment conducted? Which actions were taken to improve safety since that assessment occurred?
Some states, such as Virginia, require schools to have a security audit conducted annually. But not all states place the same emphasis on student safety as others.
Who is the administrator responsible for handling the school’s threat assessment and management program?
Unfortunately, some students tend toward despair and need help. They should be observed and get the help they need before they act out in a potentially destructive manner toward themselves or others.
What is the school’s access control policy for visitors and student re-admittance once classes are in session? How is this policy enforced?
This policy should be strict and it should be strictly enforced. Many of the violent tragedies we hear about in schools these days begin with someone entering a school unchecked who has no right to be there.
What are the determining factors for when to evacuate and when to shelter in place? Who is the decision maker?
This decision should be based on whether the threat is external or internal. But the logistics for both scenarios still require plenty of planning. School officials should know this policy and be ready to direct students at a moment’s notice.
Which safe havens are in close proximity to the school, should an evacuation be required?
These safe havens should be designated, and parents and grandparents should know about them. Particularly good safe havens are restaurants, where safety, food, water and washrooms are available.
Now It’s Your Turn
Once you’ve learned everything you need to know about your children’s or grandchildren’s school security procedures, it’s time to talk to your children about the topic.
This conversation will be very different if your youngsters are in kindergarten than if they are seniors in high school. So, use your discretion in how you approach the subject.
But regardless of their age, they need to know what to do – and what not to do – in the event of an emergency. Children of all ages will be much better off during a crisis if they’re prepared for it.
Here are some things you might want to go over with your younger children or grandchildren:
Explain what an emergency is. Tell them an emergency is when something occurs that is not expected and requires us to act quickly to stay safe. It might be extreme weather or a power outage or a flood. We can stay safely in place in some emergencies, while others force us to leave and find a safe place.
Explain what sirens and lights mean. Tell them that flashing lights and loud sirens mean help is on the way. Police, ambulances and fire trucks are coming to help. Their cars and trucks are loud and bright so that they can be seen and heard from far away.
Make sure they know whole names. Teach young children not only their whole names, but the whole names of caregivers as well. They can share this information with trusted adults when you and they become separated.
Teach them your address and phone numbers. Make sure they memorize their address and your cellphone numbers. They should also know the name of the nearest popular landmark to your home, such as a store, church or other distinctive public building.
Have a meeting place. Select a central emergency meeting place where the family can connect if some of them can’t make it home.
Have a family emergency plan. Prepare a document that spells out the family emergency plan. Teach them that this information may be shared only with designated emergency friends. The plan should list each family member by full name; home, work and school addresses and phone numbers; cellphone and email addresses; local emergency contacts; out-of-town contacts; and the family meeting place.