With the national conversations surrounding school safety, many schools have asked us for tips on ways to best prepare their school community for an emergency situation. Read this article to learn 5 things you can do today to prepare your community in the event of an emergency and assure parents that student safety is your school's top priority.
1. Share your school safety plan with the school community
- Re-share school safety and crisis management resources with families. View sample messages our schools have sent to families below.
- Keep your families up-to-date on upcoming drills and trainings.
2. Invite families to be your eyes and ears
- Seek help from your parent community. Ask them to stay connected with their teenage child and monitor their social media activities.
- Give them conversation starters by communicating with them about what goes on at school
- Give parents a tool to report anything suspicious
3. Gather contacts for the media, police, and your community leaders
- Create a group that includes your contact for the media outlet, the local police, and community leaders. Make sure they are set to receive messages in an event of an emergency.
- Share updates with the larger community on social channels. Use the social share feature to push out messages to the community via social media channels and your website.
4. Prepare your school communication system
- Create and save a template message for possible incidents. Some examples of situations you should have messages for:
- Ex. school closure due to weather, power outage, safety drill, shelter-in-place, lockdown, fire alarm in progress, threat to the school, active shooter
- Visit our Message Templates page to see example messages to send for specific situations.
- Make sure...
- you have an internal message to school staff as well
- you can alert your entire community with one click if needed
- Test your communication system
- Send a test message to parents so parents know what to expect during emergency situations. This is obvious, but make sure everyone knows THIS IS A TEST.
5. Make sure you can reach 100% of your parents
- Designate one person to keep this information up-to-date, 100% parent reach is the goal. See how to view and download your unreachable contacts via smart alerts here.
- Make sure messages are delivered to parents in their preferred language.
- Check to see if you have at least one current phone number or email for each student's family.
- Have staff members update their cell phone numbers to ensure they receive alerts during urgent situations. See how to edit contact information on ParentSquare.
Sample Message to Parents
In light of the recent school tragedy in Florida, we have compiled a few examples of letters and notices sent out from school administrations to their communities regarding school safety, vigilance and preparedness. Sending a message to let parents know that student safety is a top priority for your school will alleviate anxiety for parents and also help prepare for emergencies at your school.
In the wake of the recent tragedy in Parkland, Florida, yesterday morning I shared a note with all staff regarding where I stand as both the Chief Executive Officer and parent of three scholars. I have included my note below for your consideration.
As pointed out in my email to staff, I am working with our Chief Operating Officer, to perform an audit of all school safety protocols and mechanisms. We are meeting with both local law enforcement and school leadership teams as part of this review. Know that any changes made to our existing policies will be accompanied by staff training to support effective implementation.
As we take specific actions steps at school to ensure the safety of all staff and scholars, including reviewing and revising all protocols and trainings, it is equally important for families to take action at this time as well. Specifically, I am asking all families:
• Be sure that updated emergency contact information is on file. Sharing updated information is particularly important if you have had a recent change in phone numbers.
• Monitor your child’s social media activity and report anything suspicious. In some school shootings, the suspect’s social media accounts foreshadowed violent events.
• Listen to your children and take their concerns seriously. If they “see something,” have them “say something” to a trusted adult. We would rather investigate a “false flag” than miss an opportunity to stop an event.
• Make sure your child knows important family information, including parent/caregiver’s full name, home address, and phone number; make sure your child and the school knows how to reach you at all times. Even kindergartners should know their home address and family phone numbers.
• Talk to your children every day. Talk to your child about personal safety. Teach your child how to recognize danger signals.
If you, as families, have specific concerns, please feel free to reach out to me.
We wanted to share safety drills your students will or have participated in as part of our comprehensive safety plan. The goal of practicing the drills is to help our students feel safe at school and to know what to do should an emergency arise. We are sharing this information with you so you may discuss the drills with your children. Below is a brief description of the drills:
Evacuation: How to exit the school in a quick and orderly manner. This is most typically used for a fire drill. Each class follows an exit route and are accounted for while waiting quietly with teachers outside the building. No one can enter the school during an evacuation.
Lockdown: How students are kept safe when there is a potential threat within the school. Students practice staying quiet and unseen within classrooms, closest classrooms and restrooms (if they are not in their classroom). Nobody may leave their classroom during a lockdown and entry into the school is not permitted.
Earthquake Drill: Students will drop to the ground, take Cover under a table or desk, and Hold On to it as if a major earthquake were happening (stay down for at least 60 seconds). Practice now so you will immediately protect yourself during earthquakes!
Secured Perimeter: How students are kept safe inside the school when there is a potential threat outside of our school. We make sure all students are inside the building behind secured perimeter doors. Business as usual continues within the school and parents are able to enter the school through the main doors showing proper identification. Securing the premises usually happens when we are notified by the police to do so. For example, if something is happening in the neighborhood.
If you have any questions about any of our safety procedures please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Recent national tragedies remind us that the risk is real, an active shooter incident can happen in any place at any time. Today, students and staff participated in a lockdown safety drill which included instructions and protocols regarding RUN, HIDE, FIGHT. We encourage parents to talk about today’s drill, as part of mental rehearsal of how to react quickly when every second counts. When talking about an active shooter situation, the goal is to survive.
The following is a basic description of the RUN, HIDE, FIGHT guidelines:
• RUN/ESCAPE: If in an open or potentially unsafe area, run away until in a safe place. Getting away from the shooter is the top priority. Have an escape route and plan in mind. Leave belongings behind. Keep your hands visible.
• HIDE: Hide in an area out of the active shooter’s view and stay very quiet. Silence electronic devices and make sure they don’t vibrate. Block entry to your hiding place, lock the doors, close blinds, use backpacks and books as shields, and turn off the lights. Don’t hide in groups—spread out along walls or hide separately. Stay in place until cleared by law enforcement.
• FIGHT: As a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger. Commit to your actions and act aggressively to stop the shooter. Ambushing the shooter together with makeshift weapons such as chairs, fire extinguisher, scissors, and books can distract and disarm the shooter. CALL 911 WHEN IT IS SAFE TO DO SO. Describe each shooter, their locations, and weapons.
Thank you for your support as we address campus safety. We continue to work closely with local law enforcement regarding school safety education and emergency protocols. We encourage students to get involved at school to build positive connections through athletics, activities, clubs, spirit and theme days. We love our community!
Dear L.A. Unified Family,
The recent tragic events involving school shootings has understandably created anxiety and concern regarding overall school safety. I want to assure you that the dedicated school police officers serving the Los Angeles Unified School District are committed to providing protection for our students, employees and school communities. We take this responsibility seriously and will use every available method and practice to protect school communities.
This includes immediately responding to safety threats received, including those from social media. Unfortunately, social media posts depicting pictures of firearms and other weapons, coupled with statements suggesting a threat to school safety, tend to increase significantly following tragic incidents. Equally concerning is the fact that a large majority of these social media posts involve students and school-age children attempting to cause fear and anxiety as a simple joke or thrill of experiencing reactions.
Please know that our school police department and our law enforcement partners take these threats seriously. Investigators and school police officers immediately respond to and investigate all such threats received. These threats are unlawful, regardless of intention, and may result in serious criminal and civil consequences that include possible financial restitution for hours spent on investigations. They also may have serious administrative consequences at the school level, including possible expulsion and graduation implications. We need everyone to understand that these irresponsible actions can have life-long implications.
Here is what parents and guardians can do to help:
• Please take a moment to discuss this important issue with your children.
• Please stay connected and monitor social media activities your children are engaged in.
• Please reach out to your principal, the local police or other trained professionals if you see behavior that has potential for causing self-harm or harm to others.
• Please ensure that if you own a firearm, keep it locked in an approved storage component or locker: This is the law!
• Please ensure that your children do not have access to firearms while visiting homes of friends or relatives.
• If you hear or see something, say something! Please report safety concerns to your school or to law enforcement.
Safety is everyone's responsibility. By working, talking and listening together – especially with our students – we will continue to keep our school communities safe.
Thank you for your collaboration.
Los Angeles School Police Chief
Dear Parents and Guardians,
I am writing to let you know that we will have an active shooter drill during the month of March. It will be conducted in a more realistic manner than our past drills, which have been very controlled. We do not want to provide the exact date, for realism purposes.
Although there will not be any simulated gunfire or intruder, you may still wish to have your child opt out of participating in this drill. Alternate arrangements on Base will be made for your child during the drill.
Accordingly, please complete the e-form below to ensure we comply with your wish to have your child(ren) participate.
If you have questions or desire more information, please do not hesitate to contact us at 555-555-5555.