EMERGENCY INCIDENTS AT SCHOOLS
Safety and emergency preparedness for our schools is a topic that is very important to all members of our Staten Island community. In the Staten Island Advance video and Staten Island Parent column below I discuss some of the Emergency Protocols for our school communities.
Emergency Incidents at Schools
One of the most frightening things a parent can hear is that there is an emergency incident at their child’s school. We feel vulnerable and our first thought is to immediately go to the school.
Parents and guardians should NOT respond to the school unless they receive official notification to do so.
If a school has activated a Shelter-In (the incident is in close proximity but outside the school building) or a Hard Lockdown (incident is in the actual school building) parents and all non-emergency personnel will NOT be allowed into the building and all staff and students will NOT be allowed to leave the building without authorization from emergency responders.
An increase in vehicles and people at the school can interfere with emergency personnel responding to the incident. The first priority is to have a clear pathway for emergency responders to ensure everyone’s safety.
There are certain circumstances when the NYPD and DOE will limit what details are released. Although that may seem inappropriate, there is a legal reason. If preliminary details are included in a community notification and later determined to be inaccurate, that may jeopardize a criminal case. All paper work and communications generated by the NYPD and DOE are evidence, and as such, required to be handed over to a defendant’s attorney.
For instance; if a community notification lists a specific license plate, color, make and model of a vehicle used in a crime and then it is determined that the initial information provided was incorrect, the suspect’s defense attorney could use the incorrect information to possibly raise a reasonable doubt, limiting the chances of a conviction in a case.
When an incident happens, word can travel like the telephone game. With today’s technology, it spreads faster with even greater twists and embellishments. It is understandable that, in many cases, schools can’t release specific details about an incident. That can change when the incident is deemed under control. Schools can and should communicate with families to address any safety concerns they may have. An email, letter, or robo-call acknowledging an incident occurred and reassuring that safety protocols were implemented can help alleviate community concerns.
Providing notification to the school community should be a crucial part of a school’s emergency protocol system. Communication builds trust and collaboration. Lack of communication leads to mistrust, and gives the illusion that nothing is being done. That can be extremely damaging to a school community.
It is also important to note that New York Education Law and the New York State Education Department mandate each public school to conduct at least eight evacuation/fire drills and four shelter-in/lockdown drills each year.
NYC DOE SCHOOL SAFETY: EMERGENCY READINESS
“A vital component of emergency readiness within the DOE is the School Safety Plan (SSP). As part of the Safety Plan, schools/campuses must identify individual staff members to become Building Response Team members (BRT). In campus settings, each school must have one representative on the BRT. The BRT members are hand selected by the Principal to manage all school-related emergencies until the first responders arrive. In addition, all schools implement General Response Protocols (GRP), which outline the initial actions to be taken if an incident requires Evacuation, Shelter-In, or a Lockdown. These actions are based on the use of common language to initiate the measures all school communities will take in a variety of incidents.
All staff and students receive training in the GRP and drills are conducted at various times throughout the school year. Lessons have been designed for different grade levels so that the information is delivered to students without causing unnecessary alarm.”
Information about NYC DOE General Response Protocols is provided to parents on the schools.nyc.gov website to help guide conversations with their children about emergency readiness in schools.
Community Education Council 31 continues to advocate for even greater security protocols including, updating school Public Address Systems to improve emergency communication (which the DOE has adopted), locking school front doors and installing buzzer entry systems with image capture technology. Additionally, CEC 31 proposed that the NYC DOE hire retired Police Officers to supplement school security. The NYS Legislature and Governor Cuomo agreed with CEC 31 and incorporated all of the above recommendations into law in 2014
Read more on the proposal here: https://www.facebook.com/michael.reilly.7547/posts/10206671705367519
It is important to remember that it is impossible to prevent all incidents, but we must continually try our best to limit the impact if an emergency occurs.
At the CEC 31 March 1, 2016 Town Hall with Chancellor Carmen Farina, CEC 31 Vice President Frank Squicciarini suggested NYC DOE expand the metal detectors to all High Schools and consider the recommendations in CEC 31's Comprehensive Safety Proposal. Chancellor Farina responded that Mr. Squicciarini was in the minority when he suggested metal detectors would improve safety. What are your thoughts?
There are a limited number of schools across the city that have permanent metal detectors. A Mayor's School Safety and Climate Review Committee recommended the removal of metal detectors.
The NYPD and DOE also collaborate to conduct random "Unannounced Scanning" which is a citywide unit that rotates around the city each day to middle and high schools with portable scanning machines.
Tweed, DOE headquarters has metal detectors and armed special patrol officers. There is also a school in Tweed. Most if not all city buildings in NYC except for schools require those entering to go through metal detectors. Staten Island Borough Hall added metal detectors a few years ago in addition to posting armed special patrol officers.