Addressing emergencies in schools is one of the ways that the safety of the learners and the Staff members can be achieved. Like in any other institution where people exist and interact, schools' managers should be prepared to manage any cases of violence and disasters, be they natural or manmade. For instance, the use of SAVE (Safe Schools Against Violence in Education) law is instrumental in ensuring that the students in Washington State are safe from violence and disasters. Some of the roles of District-wide safety plan for schools includes response, prevention, and recovery in dealing with a variety of emergencies that happen in schools and can put the lives of the learners in any form of danger (Fischer et al., 2012). For a district-wide safety plan for schools to be actualized, the consensus among the key stakeholders must be achieved. Consensus starts with ensuring that all the stakeholders understand the need for the safety plan. For instance, issues such as floods can interrupt the process of learning; hence, emergency preparedness by all the stakeholders can help avert the consequences (Kerr, 2016). A consensus is a form of agreement that is reached among all the stakeholders in the education sector to ensure that all the steps taken in achieving learners and staff safety are agreeable and effective in achieving such safety goals. Consensus boosts the morale of the stakeholders in taking part in the safety plans.
Critical Components of Safety Plan
Safety and/or crisis management in schools follow various structures according to the need. Some of the structures used are migration and prevention, while others are either for a response or for recovery (US Department of Education, Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, 2003). It is important to observe the important components of safety and emergency management to achieve preparedness for crises that either looms in the schools or are on the increase. The components of crisis management plan structures include Organizational structure, Possible crisis scenario discussion, Training for staff, Internal communication plans, External communication plans, Crisis drills, community resources, Return to normalcy, Debriefing and follow-up, and Evaluation. The components are all important in ensuring effective safety and/or crisis management at a school level and at a district level (US Department of Education, Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, 2003). For instance, the possible scenario discussion component allows the school staffs and the community to take part freely in the discussions on matters that might affect their progress, for example, the crises that have already occurred in their society. Despite the difficulty of the crises, open discussion by the staff allows the staff to find an effective way of handling such situations. Another component is the organizational structure. This is a created administrative structure to establish a chain of command and to ease every work of duties and responsibilities to the staff members whenever there is an emergency (Kingshott & McKenzie, 2013). In training for staff component, every staff member in the school compound is bound to know or to get to know the updates on the safety plans and to be informed through in-service training. Again, every staff member should be trained to use several crisis procedures so that in case of any crisis he or she can be able to handle it appropriately.
Assessment of Current District-Wide Safety Standards and Plans
The Longwood Central School District has an elaborate crisis management structure that operates by observing the effective crisis management plan components. For instance, the organizational structure in the district is created because it is very difficult to manage a crisis when there is nobody in charge (Longwood Central School District, 2018). Since there are different types of emergencies that can emerge, the use of the various components makes handling such a crisis can be possible. Several emergencies are observed by the organizational structure, which seems to be the most important crisis management component in the district. The emergencies include going to the hospitals to see the students and staff who admitted or taken to, managing of computer operations and telephone use, giving of information to other administrators in other schools, handling of transportation, working with the media and reviewing of personnel records (Kingshott & McKenzie, 2013). The district also has an effective safety plan development procedures. For instance, the district has established an effective Employee Health and Safety Committee, which is mandated with addressing specific safety issues within the various school buildings. The committee holds a quarterly meeting to address the concerns and update the precautionary measures appropriately (Longwood Central School District, 2018). The emergency response plan in the district is another important document that was established in collaboration with the Safety Awareness Committee to ensure that safety concerns in all the schools within the district are addressed and managed effectively. Based on the strong components of the safety management plan in Longwood Central School District, it can be said that the safety standards achieved in the district are high enough to avert most of the crises and consequences of crises that might arise in the schools within the district.
Identification of Best Practices
Best practices are the individual and group responsibilities in ensuring that the safety management plans by the school and the district are effective in preventing and managing crises. Both the individual and group best practices are vital to achieving safe environments for learners, visitors, and staff members. For instance, knowledge sharing is a best practice that can help inform potential victims to vacate areas where any form of crisis may occur. Building consensus among the key stakeholders in the education sector as regards the safety measures and precautions is another best practice that leads to the development of acceptable standards and measures of safety management in schools. Another best practice in the community involvement that includes the engagement of the community in discussions regarding the potential crisis and workable solutions (Longwood Central School District, 2018). The best practices are important in ensuring that everyone involved in the cycle of school safety practices stays warned, informed and prepared to combat such crises effectively.
Discussion of Individual School Safety Plans
Individual school safety plans are important in ensuring the safety of learners, visitors, and the staff at the school level. For instance, planning for evacuation is the responsibility of the school in case of a looming crisis such as the earthquake of floods (Knoff, 2009). Plans for contacting parents is another responsibility of the individual school management body to ensure that the parents of the learners are informed in time about any crisis including the behaviors of their children that would culminate into violence in schools (Longwood Central School District, 2018). Emergency training and drills are also specific to schools as places such as fire assemblies among other emergency assembly spots are unique to specific schools. Crisis prevention or intervention strategies are individual school safety plans. For instance, Peer Mediation, Leader In Me Program and Social Skills Project are among the safety plans that individual schools engage in to ensure that the learners and staff members are prepared to combat any crisis in the schools (Knoff, 2009).
The Collaboration of Individual and District Plans
The collaboration between the district and the individual schools is important as the district acts as a communication center as well as emergency response coordination center. Information sharing is the most important component of safety management, for instance, a 24-hour manned security center at the district headquarters offer telephone hotline for reporting incidences of emergency such as violence incidences (Longwood Central School District, 2018). Besides, the district offers extensive training on multi-hazard school safety issues that involve both the staff members and the learners. The district also coordinates the building of various safety teams that can respond to various emergencies to help protect the lives of potential victims. The schools have to provide the people at the district headquarter of any potential danger or symptoms of a violent eruption in schools so that appropriate actions can be taken to avert such incidents. The collaborations include effective communications, holding of yearly or quarterly meetings as well as emergency meetings to chat a way forward in averting such incidents.
Community Inclusion in the Safety Plan
The community should be part of any safety plan by a school, as the school exists in communities where people live and interact. Providing safety in schools without creating awareness among the people living around the schools may not only make the execution of such plans effective but might also endanger the lives of the people in the community, some of who are parents to the leaders. In instances of evacuation, the members of the community can be included to help transport students and staff members to designated areas (Longwood Central School District, 2018). The community should also be made aware of the safety practices for mitigation, response, and recovery so that they can effectively help in managing or avoiding a crisis in schools. The members of the community can be instrumental in reporting instances of unwarranted behaviors among students such as violence and drug abuse (Fischer et al., 2012). The community members can also play the part of educating the learners on the social media and other platforms on best practices that would help manage and avoid crises in schools.
Fischer, R., Halibozek, E. P., Edward Halibozek, M. B. A., & Walters, D. (2012). Introduction to security. Butterworth-Heinemann.
Kerr, M. M. (2016). School crisis prevention and intervention. Waveland Press.
Kingshott, B. F., & McKenzie, D. G. (2013). Developing crisis management protocols in the context of school safety. Journal of Applied Security Research, 8(2), 222-245.
Knoff, H. (2009). Implementing Effective School-wide Student Discipline and Behavior Management Systems: Increasing Academic Engagement and Achievement, Decreasing Teasing and Bullying, and Keeping Your School and Common Areas Safe. Project ACHIEVE Press.
Longwood Central School District. (2018). District Wide Safety Plan - Longwood Central School District. Retrieved from http://www.longwood.k12.ny.us/departments/security/district_wide_safety_plan
US Department of Education, Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. (2003). Practical information on crisis planning: A guide for schools and communities. US Department of Education.
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