October 29, 2018

A Proactive Approach Requires Effective Training

By Ally Jones

Based on the article by Ashley Chohlis, “Creating a Safe Learning Environment Demands Realistic, Proactive Safety.” Read the full article on Upshot.

Ashley Chohlis, Director of Administrative Services and Leadership Development at East Central ISD, recognizes that being proactive is essential to school safety, and it requires staff and students to train for how to respond to various situations. She stated, “In an unsafe or emergency situation, people will rise or fall to the level of their training. Every drill, every scenario, we put staff and students through, builds schema for their response in an actual emergency situation. That is why training and developing teachers’ and students’ responses in emergency situations is the key to being proactive.”

Learning from Tragedy

Tragedy struck close to home in Ashley’s district, but they were able to use it as a learning experience to grow from. She stated, “East Central is very close to Sutherland Springs, which you may know as the site of a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in November of 2017… When that event happened, the people in our district were deeply affected. It shook the entire district to its core. The impact was that we all realized we weren’t doing enough to protect our students.”

“Everyone in our district must know how to handle an unidentified person in the building, a fire in the parking lot, and everything in between. Some events are more likely than others, but the stakes are too high not to be ready for anything… We ran drills, certainly, but we ran them when it was convenient…Many of our own kids are in classes across this district, and if our preparation didn’t feel good enough for our own children, it wasn’t good enough for any of the children we serve. Something had to change.”

Using Scenario-Based Training

Ashley saw an opportunity to better prepare her staff and students for any emergency through scenario-based training using Drill Scenarios. She stated, “Across the entire district, we’ll start to drill at times when everyone least expects it. People will understand what their different options are at different times of the day. We’re not going to tell people exactly what they should do in every case—we’re going to give them the skills they need to make that decision for themselves. After each drill, we’ll debrief and help our staff build their own schema. This has always been the dream, but now it’s a reality.”

“Disaster can strike at a moment’s notice. This isn’t something you can control and, in truth, you probably can’t prevent it, either. What you can control is how prepared you are when that moment finally comes.”

Join the conversation as we chat with Ashley – November 14 @ 1:00pm EST

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How are you taking a proactive approach to school safety in your district?

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I can’t express how important that drills are. They are just as important as the testing that we require of students. How else do we expect them to be prepared. PLUS – we are prepping them for a lifetime lesson to be prepared.

Chad Leggett

Practicing Safety Drills and Scenarios is just like learning First Aid and CPR. You may never need it, but if you do, you need to be ready/prepared to make quick rational decisions.

We have monthly drills of all types – the building administrator determines which is most appropriate. We also do tabletop scenarios with our staff and with our students.

Kathleen Wolf

We have drills throughout the school year. We have updated our communication system through Navigate and instruction has been
given to the teachers on how to use the system. We do tabletop scenarios with staff.

Charlie Hammonds

It is a well known fact that in emergencies we revert back to our training. No training = Disaster. We need to practice practice practice.

Alexander Garey

Reading through this is something that we all know but seems like we often overlook it. It’s like the saying ‘better safe than sorry’.

Practicing for these scenarios is the only way you can prepare for (God forbid) the actual event.

Not only practicing the drills, but explaining they “why” aspect of drills. Why do we practice? To ensure that in the event of a real emergency we are prepared. To make sure that we know what to do, and how to do it, saving time and potentially lives. We practice drills not because we have to, but because it is the right thing to do.