There has been a lot in the media lately regarding school violence and the numbers of violent events that have occurred in our nation’s schools in recent years. The administrative, teaching and support staff understand that this can be very anxiety provoking for parents and you may have questions about how we keep your students safe in our schools.
These are some of the things we do as a staff to maintain the safest environment we can for our students:
1. Our district has a comprehensive Safe Schools Plan that covers as many events as we can anticipate, from extreme weather events, to school violence to pandemic disease. These plans are reviewed in depth every three years with fire, police and public health and annually within the school department. Updates are made whenever needed. These plans are not for public release so as to not compromise safety, but the Director of Health and Safety (413-587-1364) is happy to talk with any community member about our plans.
2. A plan is only as good as it is practiced. Over and over we have seen how people are kept from harm because they knew what to do in a crisis event. Northampton school staff practice our plans regularly through drills with fire and police, response team meetings and district-wide tabletop practice exercises. We recommend that families also have a plan and practice it. More information on how to do this is available in the “safety planning” section of the NPS Health Services website.
3. Communication is key. We will use a variety of means to communicate with families during a crisis event, including our reverse 911 call system, email, letters, our website and social media. We will always give you as much accurate information as we can and we hope that if families have information that could be helpful to us, they will likewise share it with the appropriate staff. In a crisis, it is understandable that parents and guardians will want timely and accurate information and we just ask that you not flood our phone lines, which may be needed to manage the crisis, but instead look to the other means mentioned here to get information.
4. Our fire, police, public health and administrative school staff maintain open lines of communication and meet regularly to discuss issues in our schools. We also attend trainings so as to stay up to date on the latest research on school safety and best practices. All administrative staff have obtained basic Incident Command Response certification from FEMA, which helps them know how to communicate and operate with our emergency responders during a crisis.
We hope this information has been helpful for you!
CREATE A FAMILY DISASTER PLAN
Create a Family Disaster Plan by taking four simple steps:
- First, learn what hazards exist in your community and how to prepare for each.
- Then, meet with your family to discuss what you would do, as a group, in each situation.
- Next, take steps to prepare your family for disasters by posting emergency phone numbers, selecting an out-of-state family contact, assembling disaster supplies kits for each member of your household and installing smoke detectors on each level of your home.
- Finally, practice your Family Disaster Plan so that everyone will remember what to do when a disaster does occur and where to meet in case of emergency.
Make children a part of disaster planning:
- Everyone in the household, including children, should play a part in the family’s preparedness efforts, as well as your response and recovery efforts.
- Make a game of putting together a disaster supplies kit. Have older children think of items that should be included in the kits and have younger children find the items (at home or at the store) and put them in the kit. Be sure to include small games or books and their comfort items, such as a blanket or stuffed animal, in the kit.
- Keep a flashlight beside your children’s beds. Have the youngest child lead your family with a flashlight during disaster drills.
- Teach your child how to recognize danger signals. Make sure your child knows what smoke detectors, fire alarms and community warning systems sound like.
- Teach your child how and when to call for help. Post emergency numbers by the telephones, and have a plan of action for what your child should do if telephones are out of service.
- Help your child memorize your family name, address and phone number.
Immediately after the disaster, reduce fear and anxiety: Keep the family together and make children a part of getting the family back on its feet.
- Calmly and firmly explain the situation and what will happen next.
- Listen to children as they talk about the disaster; encourage their questions.
- Include the children in the recovery activities. Give them responsibility, chores, etc.
For more about helping children prepare for and cope with disasters, contact your local Red Cross.
For a copy of a Family Disaster Plan form go here
For a copy of the supplies needed for a Disaster Kit go here