On Thursday, May 31, 2018, we hosted our fourth and final School Safety Talks webinar on crisis prevention, preparedness, and response with PublicSchoolWORKS President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Temming and Vice President of Strategic Alliances Tom Strasburger. During the webinar, “Insights to Action: A Wrap-Up Discussion on Crisis Prevention, Preparedness, and Response,” Steve and Tom engaged in a thoughtful discussion about ways your district can enhance its school safety strategy and support the well-being of your staff and students. Below are a few key takeaways from this webinar.
The issue of a crisis on campus is complicated. The reality is that districts have always, and will always, experience crises, whether they are active shooter situations, weather events, or student injuries. When Steve was at Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), he went to tradeshows, talked to vendors, and collected brochures on new products, but ultimately, it was hard to know what to prioritize or how to sort through it all. “I had plenty of ideas about what I should be doing, but not enough time or resources to get everything done,” said Steve. Like many districts, when an emergency occurred at CPS, the district reacted. “There was a sense of urgency. They checked the box, did what they could, but the big question I would ask myself was ‘Are we doing all we can?’ I really didn’t know.”
Districts must look beyond checking a box and other short term reactions. Districts need to ask themselves:
- What do we want to accomplish?
- Are we in a state of full readiness?
- Where are our gaps?
To ensure a safe school environment with staff and students who are prepared to respond to a crisis, districts need to implement thorough, effective, sustainable safety programs that are consistently applied across every building. They then need to continuously improve these safety programs to ensure they stay on top of best practices, regulations, and emerging threats.
Here’s what a comprehensive safety program looks like. Every comprehensive safety program has four parts: prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery. Using an active shooter situation as an example, the prevention portion of the program includes training, reporting systems, access control and physical security measures like gates and locked doors, and building inspections. Being prepared for an active shooter means conducting active shooter drills, stocking buildings with first aid supplies, creating safety plans, and promoting awareness programs to all stakeholders. Responding to an active shooter includes properly locking down buildings, emergency responder notification and management, parent communication, and coordinated medical assistance. Recovering from an active shooter requires clear communication with stakeholders and therapeutic assistance or grief counseling for staff and students, and it also requires an evaluation of the school’s response to determine any program improvements.
A district’s local responders are a wealth of knowledge on different safety aspects to consider. They can help evaluate school buildings for risk, prepare safety plans, and help conduct drills.
PublicSchoolWORKS can fill in the gaps. “When it came to figuring out all I had to do at CPS – including best practices, addressing liability issues, and mandates – and then doing it across all schools and making sure it happened every year continuously was daunting to say the least,” said Steve. This is what inspired Steve to create PublicSchoolWORKS – to help administrators fill the gaps in their safety plans.
PublicSchoolWORKS operates using a six-pillar service model.
- Research: PublicSchoolWORKS has an entire team – the Research & Development team – committed to researching new federal and state regulations.
- Program Development: The Research & Development team interprets not just the letter of the law, but also the spirit of the law, and combines this with their knowledge base of safety best practices to develop safety programs.
- Content: PublicSchoolWORKS’ systems are populated with high-quality content, including online training courses, forms, posters, inspection check lists, and more.
- Technology: The automation behind PublicSchoolWORKS system makes it easy to auto-deliver, track and document all program activities. Administrators can easily confirm that tasks are being completed and that everyone is on the same page because everything is online.
- Employee Support: All users have 24/7 access to technical support, as well as experts to answer questions about safety and regulation, including chemical safety experts.
- Program Support: PublicSchoolWORKS’ team of Project Management Coordinators work closely with the key people at the district to set up programs, define responsibilities, and get everything up and running. They help identify trends in a district’s safety reporting and suggest best practices to help improve the district’s overall safety.