The Essentials of School Safety
An excerpt from Mandy Schneitman’s complete article, “Support, Communication, and the Importance of Maps in Rural School Safety Plans.” Read the full article on Upshot
Essential: This one word sums up our district’s experience with NaviGate.
Communication is Essential
Within Jefferson County, we have Jefferson City, Dandridge City, Strawberry Plains, and White Pine, each with rural police departments and a chief of police; there is also a community called New Market, which has a police officer. We have a county sheriff, and we have several different volunteer fire departments. Our challenge is which responders are responsible for which schools, and how to get and keep everyone connected.
We have one high school, in the center of the county, with approximately 2300 students in grades 9 to 12 on two different campuses. When school is in session, the city of Dandridge’s population doubles. With little nearby responder support, if we had a major incident, we would need our Jefferson County Sheriff’s department to be our major responder—and then work together.
With Respond everything is online; it is a way to share live, ongoing information with administrators and emergency responders. It allows us to “share out” information to emergency responders so that these responders can see our emergency plans and also be able to see our school maps. We are looking forward to utilizing all these communication tools.
Using a smart phone, teachers can respond immediately to administrators. They are able to check from their active current roster who is present and who is missing. The app allows you to input actual real-time information. For example, teacher A can note a student who’s gone to the library; teacher B can add attendance for another class who has a substitute teacher. During the drill, principals can chat with one another within their school, and they can also chat with an individual teacher. An administrator can live chat with every single teacher in the building and at the same time. NaviGate’s Respond App is an amazing way to communicate.
Simulating Emergency Drills is Essential
We choose one school each year for a specific emergency drill exercise to train with emergency responders, be it for weather, chemical release, or active shooter. This includes a “table top,” which is when we bring in all of our emergency responders and a facilitator walks responders and administrators through a simulated emergency drill followed later in the year with a functional, actual implementation of this drill with teachers and students. This gives us, (the school staff, central office staff, transportation staff etc.) a chance to work with our emergency responders.
When we have a live shooter drill, we have people who come in and impersonate shooters, and we have officers coming in and firing blanks in response. Hearing the noise and seeing the fake injured feels real—and it is real to us. All of our response from the district down to the school level is important to us. We try to simulate to the most realistic degree as possible, considering as many eventualities as possible.
Mapping is Essential
I admit we didn’t see the immediate need to invest in mapping. Maps have been a real challenge for us. We’ve built new schools. We’ve completely renovated our high school. We’ve had new administrators come in and transition to other schools. Initially we felt like we wouldn’t do this—we wouldn’t invest in mapping. And, yet, the more we looked at it, the more we felt like we had to move forward. It was just too important, because emergency responders can use and share these maps.
The maps are interactive; we’re able to draw out our evacuation plan, certain routes, certain areas to park, and if you need to create a helipad. You can actually see every classroom, every hallway with a 360-degree perspective. No matter how rural or small your school, having vantage points mapped is essential.
Director of Student Services at Jefferson County Schools
Thank you, Mandy, for sharing your thoughts on school safety!