September 21, 2016 0

How safe is your school evacuation process?

Posted by:Marketing onSeptember 21, 2016

Schools are among the safest places in a community, which they should be. We all want our children to be safe when at school, as do their teachers and other staff.

The number of emergency evacuations carried out by schools (as a reaction to threats such as bomb scares) has been steadily increasing. A study by the ‘National School Safety and Security Services’ in America found that the number of school threats had risen 158% in 2014 from the same period in 2013. This increase is a reality that schools have had to adapt to and prepare for, in order to keep children safe in this changing world. Nearly a third of these threats saw these schools evacuated. And rightly so, evacuation and lockdown procedures are the safest response to a threat.

Now more than ever, School administrators and those in charge of Health and Safety at schools have to make sure their emergency evacuation procedures work well and ensure that communication lines are open and secure during a response to a threat.

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All schools have some sort of protocol in place for dealing with threats and emergency lockdowns or evacuations. Here are a few steps you can take to make sure evacuation protocols and systems are as effective as they possibly can be.:

  1. Review. Take some time to review the school’s current plan to make sure there are no gaps in the evacuation and lockdown event plan and systems. If you need more information read our blog ‘6 Tips for Strengthening Your Evacuation Management’ here.
  2. Implement. Fill any gaps that showed up during your review. Thinking about your system as a whole, we suggest introducing a visitor management system and evacuation management app to your plan. Adding an emergency evacuation system like WolEvac to your toolkit will enable a communication channel for responders to easily and safely communicate through, regardless of the threat or reason for evacuating.
  3. Stay vigilant. Do drills and practice runs often. It’s standard to do a test evacuation or lockdown responses every 6-months or so. These activities are crucial to train new staff or students as well as provide a ‘refresher’ for those who have done it before. Make sure any learnings from these drills are picked up on, shared, and then followed up on.
  4. Be inclusive. It’s worth noting that a school should be inclusive of any disabled or impaired students. Evacuation management systems like WolEvac can help with impaired students by flagging that they are on-site and will need assistance in an emergency. A university recently found a student was forgotten during a fire drill as they were profoundly deaf and didn’t hear an alarm go off.

During an evacuation event, the worst nightmare for a School Administrator or anyone responsible for student or staff safety is not being able to communicate effectively. Even worse could be not knowing that a child or staff member is missing from a lockdown area or muster point.

When a school’s emergency evacuation or lockdown is underway there will undoubtedly be challenges that come with it. A major challenge to the emergency response coordination is communication between staff and emergency services.

If Mrs Smith and her class are in Block F during a lockdown and the threat is in Block A, Mrs Smith and her class won’t be able to physically leave Block F until the threat is gone. During this time the only way to share information with those outside of Block F will probably be via a phone or computer. Effective communication during this time is crucial, so everyone can stay up to date with the emergency procedure as it’s happening, to take the best possible steps to safety. If the school is in lockdown or being evacuated, there is no time to waste not being able to contact Mrs Smith who is already talking with another emergency responder on her cell phone.

What a school doesn’t need during this time is a communication break down. Have a look into using WolEvac, or another visitor management system, to ensure your school is using the best available technology to deal with an evacuation crisis.

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