Westfield Washington Schools has twelve administrators in the district who are certified School Safety Specialists. Well, what does it mean to be a certified School Safety Specialist? A certified School Safety Specialist has attended training and been certified by the Indiana Department of Education School Safety Academy. School Safety Specialists are required to attend annual safety training sessions to remain certified. During these training sessions, best practices are shared by nationally recognized experts and other school districts throughout the state. These best practices and then reviewed by our district’s Safety Committee to see if changes or updates need to be made to our safety policies, processes, or practices. We have made several changes to our safety practices including updating our bomb threat process and also using a new checkout process if we ever have to evacuate and dismiss students from an offsite location. The job of student and staff safety is one that is never completed. Westfield Washington Schools district administrators continue to educate themselves and study best practices as the safety of our students and staff members is always our utmost priority.
Severe Weather Procedures:
During severe weather or tornado warnings, students and staff members in our schools go to safe and secure locations in our buildings and assume a cover position. These locations have been recommended and reviewed by the Westfield Fire Department and in some cases by individuals from Hamilton County Emergency Management. These safe areas are located along interior walls, away from windows, and away from high ceilings. In the case of this type of emergency situation, it is our practice that we do not dismiss or release students to their parents while the emergency situation is taking place. We ask that parents waiting outside come into the building and take cover as well as school buildings are some of the safest structures to be in during a severe weather situation. The reason for not releasing the students to parents includes the previously mentioned fact that it is safer in the school building than being outside in a car and also that in order to ensure the safety of our office staff members, they cannot be locating and releasing students because they also should be taking cover at that time. Thank you for your understanding and for your support as we work to ensure students, staff members, and parents are safe and sound during severe weather or tornado emergencies.
The recent school tragedy in Chardon, Ohio and the rash of severe weather recently in the Midwest serve to reinforce the importance of safety during the school day for the staff and students of Westfield Washington Schools. When safety situations such as these occur throughout the nation, we at WWS make it a point to take the time to review our safety plans and make sure staff and students understand their roles during a crisis situation. We also try to learn from these tragic events and make neccesary changes or adaptations to our safety plans in order to be better prepared and we review those changes in a timely manner with students and staff members. Most importantly, in the wake of the tragedy at Chardon High School, we make sure our students feel confident to report any dangerous or threatening intentions from their classmates. Our hope is that every student in our school system has an adult in the school building that they trust and can go to with any information that they feel might be a safety situation or a concern.
Safety plans are just that, only plans. Safety plans aren’t effective unless the staff and students know them inside and out and also how to adapt to various situations. As we all know, nothing can totally be simulated or practiced in drill situations. In order to help with this, we incorporate various scenarios to our drills such as practicing them during lunch and passing periods, blocking exits, etc. By doing this, our hope is that staff and students are then able to make better decisions when faced with a crisis situation.
School safety is our top priority but it is not just a staff responsibility or a student responsibility, it is a community responsibility. It takes all of us in the Westfield community to be vigilant and aware of possible threats to our schools. I recommend that all parents review with their children the safety drills that take place at their particular school. I also ask that parents and anyone else in the community that has knowledge of a safety situation or a safety concern to please contact an administrator at the school or district level.
Thanks for your help in making Westfield Washington Schools a safe and healthy environment for our students and staff members to learn and grow.
Fire and Evacuation Drills
As stated before, our emphasis and main priority is always on the safety and security of our students and staff members. In order to do this, we do frequent drills to practice our safety processes. One of those drills involves evacuating the building in the case of fire or other circumstances. By state law, every school must complete a fire drill every month of the school year. At Westfield Washington Schools, we take this drill one step further and as a district we mandate that our fire drills not only occur during normal class time, but we also take time to practice them during our lunch periods and passing periods. We also occasionally block an exit so that the teachers and students must be aware of alternate routes to exit the building. Several times we have representatives from the Westfield Fire Department and/or Hamilton County Emergency Management come and observe our drills and give us advice and suggestions. Our goal is to teach our students and staff members to be aware of all of their options in the case of an emergency and give them the tools to ensure their safety. After every drill, the administrative team debriefs the drill and looks for ways to make improvements to the process.
In future blog postings, I’ll touch on additonal steps that we take in our district to make Westfield Washington Schools a safe and healthy environment for all.
One of the goals listed in the Westfield Washington Schools strategic plan is a safe and healthy environment. The sub goals related to this goal include safety preparedness, satisfaction, and attendance. I will be using this blog site to update you on the steps the district is taking to achieve an exemplary level in regards to these goals and also to explain the many aspects and processes in our district that make up a safe and healthy environment.
One of the main focuses of the 2011-12 school year is safety preparedness. Our major focus has been to review and improve all of our safety situations and drills including fire drills, severe weather drills, lockdown drills, evacuation drills, etc. The processes for these drills are reviewed, practiced, debriefed, and improved so that we are prepared as best as possible in the event of an actual situation. Each drill has a specific set of criteria and a rubric in which we rate our preparedness. This data is listed in our strategic plan in the area of safety preparedness and is divided into evacuation and stay in place drills. Our hope is that you hear from our students that they are practicing and reviewing these drills on a regular basis and are aware that an emphasis has been made in the area of safety preparedness. We also continue to grow our wonderful working relationship with the Westfield Police Department and the Westfield Fire Department. They have helped us greatly in developing, reviewing, and improving our plans.
In upcoming blogs I’ll go into more detail regarding specific situations of safety preparedness.