Most of the schools that we assess here at Invictus Consulting have a solid and detailed plan for emergencies and crises. With that said, many emergency plans do not account for reunification of parents and students if there is a need to evacuate the campus. We regularly find that schools specify a reunification location but no reunification procedure. A reunification plan is a plan that contains details on the specific orchestration for administrators, teachers, staff, and students as they arrive at the reunification area.
One critical aspect of any Crisis Action Plan is accountable reunification of students with their parents or guardians in the event of a school crisis or emergency. A pre-determined, practiced reunification method ensures that the reunification process will not further complicate what is probably an already chaotic, anxiety-filled scene.
Remember that a reunification plan is a plan not a place. A proper reunification plan can be executed at any location. In brief, the reunification process should include:
- Establishing a Student Staging Area
- Establishing a Parent Check-In Area
- Delivering students to the staging area, beyond the field of vision of parents/guardians
- Directing parents and guardians to the Parent Check-In Area and helping them understand the process
- Having parents and guardians sign Reunification Cards
- Having runners recover students from the Student Staging Area
- Establishing controlled lines of sight allow to communication and other issues to be handled more easily
- Anticipating medical or investigative contingencies
- Integration with first responder personnel
A reunification plan should be created by security professionals or your school’s security management team and be reviewed and practiced on a regular annual basis. Online training by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for an Introduction to Incident Management for Schools will help school personnel understand the basics of an Incident Command System, which is a standardized, on-scene, all-hazards incident management approach. This course is three hours and can be taken at the following website: https://emilms.fema.gov/IS100SCA/index.htm.
The Department of Homeland Security has a public relations campaign aimed at engaging the public in protecting our homeland through awareness–building, partnerships, and other outreach.
You may have seen signs or posters in New York City, where the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) has partnered with DHS on this initiative. The premise of this program is that informed and alert citizens play a critical role in keeping their communities safe. In other words, ordinary people (i.e., people that are not trained in law enforcement, surveillance, or security) can aid law enforcement and security efforts by alerting the authorities when a person is acting erratic or when an object is unusual for the location. By knowing what is “normal” for your everyday environment – your home, commute, work, gym, grocery store – you will be better prepared to notice (AND REPORT) when something is out of place, whether that is a suspicious person, a suspicious object, or a suspicious vehicle.
This type of campaign can be an important part of keeping your workplace safe. Workplaces should have a clear chain of command for reporting suspicious persons, activities, vehicles, or objects. Training your employees how to notice suspicious activity – like a person asking to be let in to a secure area without the proper credentials or a person who seems to be conducting surveillance on the building’s entrances – is the first step in awareness. Training your employees what to report is also important. When reporting suspicious persons, activities, or objects, people should note who or what they saw, where they saw it, when they saw it, and why it is suspicious. It’s also important that your employees know who to report to; this doesn’t have to be an elaborate chain of command – employees simply need to know which person to report to, and managers need to know where to pass the information to, whether it is local law enforcement, company executives, etc.
The Department of Homeland Security has resources for Hometown Security, where communities and businesses can access free tools and resources to help keep local communities and the public safe and secure. The Hometown Security division encourages businesses to proactively play a role in keeping their communities safe by employing the steps of Connect, Plan, Train, and Report. In terms of reporting, the Hometown Security division points businesses to the DHS “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign.
Here at Invictus Consulting, we encourage businesses, schools, and organizations to train their people on detecting and reporting suspicious activity and persons. Start by browsing around the DHS and Hometown Security web pages; then work with your executives, managers, or board to create a plan that works for your company, school, or organization; then train your people so that they know what to do if they encounter suspicious persons or activities.
Today we’d like to talk about fire safety and egress points, specifically doors with magnetic locks. Mag lock doors are (usually) exterior doors that have magnetic locking hardware, whereby an electromagnetic current is passed between the device on the door and that on the door frame, thus creating a locking action.
Mag locks don’t interact with the levers or knobs on a door, which means that if the magnetic lock is active, pushing a door strike or turning a door knob will not open the door. This is why Life Safety Code requires that any door with a mag lock also needs distinct additional ways to break the power (and thus open the door) in the event of an emergency. These include:
- a passive infrared motion sensor (drops power to the magnetic lock whenever motion is observed)
- an egress button (a button that can be pushed to immediately break power to the magnetic lock in an emergency)
- a fire alarm relay ( if a fire alarm is triggered the relay will drop power to the magnetic lock)
The National Fire Protection Association instructs facility managers or those people in charge of security that the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) is the final authority on whether your fire, life, and electrical safety programs are up to code. The AHJ differs by state, area, type of facility, etc. and may be your local fire chief, labor department, state department, or other organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure.
Mag locks are great security measures; with that said, it’s important that if you have them in your facility, that you have redundant measures that allow for free egress in an emergency.
We talk a lot about risks, threats, and preparedness at schools on the Invictus blog. If you’ve been around this blog for any length of time, you know that we think having an Emergency Operations Plan is a critical part of keeping faculty and students safe at school.
Today I’d like to talk about what happens if there is an emergency after school hours are over but when children and staff are still on campus. Lots of things go on after classes are dismissed for the day – sports teams practice, visitors come on campus to attend sporting events, school clubs meet, faculty meetings take place, teachers prep and plan, and students use the playground equipment. Your Emergency Operations plan should take these types of activities into account.
Sporting events are a particular concern that probably require a specific Emergency Playbook within your Emergency Operations Plan. Sporting events are unique because you have numerous visitors on campus to watch the event and an away team on campus to participate in the event; money may change hands at the concession stand; vehicular traffic is increased on campus; staff on campus (e.g., coaches, guards) may be different than the school-day staff; and people may inadvertently wander into school buildings in search of a restroom. Simply put, sporting events pose challenges that are different from the challenges of a regular school day and therefore need to be planned for separately in your emergency planning.
Relaxing your security program once the dismissal bell has rung is poor policy. Teachers deserve to be kept safe even if there are no children left on campus. Athletes and club members and the faculty, staff, and coaches that work with these children deserve to be kept safe after the dismissal bell. Don’t forget to include after hours activities in your emergency planning, please!
We frequently talk about OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) here on the Invictus Consulting blog; OSHA is the government agency (under the Department of Labor) charged with ensuring the employers provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees.
We thought it would be a good idea to give a brief overview of OSHA since we refer to the organization often around here. (Click on the picture below to access the All About OSHA guide.)
OSHA requires that employers:
- follow all relevant OSHA standards
- find and correct health and safety hazards
- inform their employees about chemical hazards
- provide personal protective equipment to employees
Under the law that created OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Act), employees have the right to:
- working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm
- receive information and training on hazards present in the workplace
- receive information and training on relevant OSHA standards
- file a complaint to OSHA (without retaliation from their employer) if they believe there is a serious hazard at their workplace
The top 10 most frequently OSHA standards that are cited during an OSHA audit (i.e., the most frequently violated standards) are:
- Fall Protection
- Hazard Communication
- Scaffolding (Construction Standard)
- Respiratory Protection
- Powered Industrial Trucks
- Ladders (Construction Standard)
- Electrical, Wiring Methods
- Machine Guarding
- Electrical, General Requirements
OSHA is an important resource when it comes to safety in the workplace, so don’t be afraid to poke around on their website so that you can understand your right to a safe and healthy workplace.
We are currently in the midst of tornado season here in the southeastern United States. Most tornadoes occur between March and June in the United States, although they can and do occur at other times during the year as well.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the 2017 tornado season is off to an active start, with over 570 tornadoes reported through the end of April.
In terms of preparedness, it is important to remember that tornadoes can disrupt transportation, power, water, gas, communications; cause flash flooding; and of course destroy houses and other buildings. Preparedness is critical both at your home and at your workplace.
As a reminder, a tornado watch indicates that an area is experiencing severe weather that may be capable of producing a tornado; a tornado warning indicates that a tornado has been sighted. Look to see if your community or county or state has a text or email alerting system for emergency notifications.
FEMA’s ready.gov website has a section about tornado preparedness that can help you with personal preparedness in your home. They suggest things as having an emergency kit at your home, creating a family communications plan, and practicing seeking appropriate shelter. You can download their pdf How to Prepare for a Tornado guide for more details. The American Red Cross also has a preparedness checklist that you can download and use.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is a good resource for tornado preparedness in the workplace, since OSHA is tasked with making sure that employers provide a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. At a minimum, workplaces should:
- create an Emergency Action Plan
- identify shelter locations in the workplace
- train employees on how and where to seek shelter in the workplace
- establish a system to warn employees of a tornado watch or warning
- establish a system to know who is in the building in the event of an emergency
Personal preparedness is a good place to start to make sure you’re safe in your place of work. If you’re prepared and know what to do at your home, you’ll be better prepared to know what to do if a tornado strikes while you’re at work.
Open campus – two of the most important words when independent schools advertise to prospective new families. “Come, join our school family and you can visit your child on campus at any time of day, pop in on their classrooms, have lunch with them, and let them leave campus if they’re seniors.” How inviting and appealing to prospective families!
Here at Invictus Consulting we are absolutely in favor of the things that open campuses foster – parent involvement, increased accountability and openness, increased community in the school, and freedom for older students. We think those things are positive and create great schools. With that said, an open campus is a security liability, and the aspects an open campus foster can be achieved while at the same time maintaining a safe learning and working environment.