FAQ – School Safety Emergency Preparedness
What is emergency preparedness?
HCSD has taken steps to ensure your child’s safety while in school. Each school has developed a crisis response plan. Emergency preparedness is basically preparing the steps you will take in the event of an emergency such as contact information, communications and evacuation plans.
How can I stay informed?
HCSD broadcasts emergency messages, when necessary, using a number of media. General emergency messages, early and late school openings and closings can be found on the school system’s webpage. Emergency messages are transmitted via phone and email by the Infinite Campus Messaging System to local media as well as to parents. Parents are encouraged to listen to radio or television.
How will my child’s school handle an emergency situation?
All Hall County School District facilities have an emergency preparedness plan. The specifics of each plan differ for each location. The response to each situation will differ based on the specifics of that situation. The flexibility of the plan is key to the success of the response. In general, each plan involves the designation of a crisis management team; development of evacuation, shelter-in-place and lockdown procedures; preparation of a portable critical response kit that contains key information and supplies; designation of one or more appropriate evacuation sites; provisions for training personnel and updating the plan; checklists for dealing with specific types of incidents; and resources for help before, during and after an event. All Hall County School plans have been reviewed and approved by the Hall County Sheriff office and Hall County Emergency Management Agency.
How will my children know what to do in the event of an incident?
Inform your children that if a crisis occurs while they are in school their teacher will provide them with appropriate instructions.
Can I see the crisis plan for my child’s school?
Hall County School System does not release this type of specific information.
What is lockdown?
An emergency may prevent the safe evacuation of a school building and require steps to isolate students and faculty from danger by instituting a school lockdown. In an interior lockdown situation, all students are kept in classrooms or other designated locations that are away from the danger. Faculty members are responsible for accounting for students and ensuring that no one leaves the safe area. School personnel will also secure building entrances, ensuring that no unauthorized individuals leave or enter the building. Exterior lockdown procedures may also be used to ensure the safety of students when an incident occurs in the community. Parents are permitted access to the building and to their children if it is safe for them to do so.
In the event of an emergency situation, will HCSD go into lockdown?
The specific actions taken by HCSD in any emergency situation, both systems wide and at individual schools, will depend on the specifics of the situation. Any action taken would depend on several factors, including the level of threat and the advice of local, state, and federal agencies. The safety of students and staff members will be the primary concern in any decision.
What is shelter-in-place?
Shelter-in-place is a short-term solution to a short-term problem. If an accident or attack that created contaminated air occurred in the nearby area, everyone would be brought indoors, including those in trailers. Building personnel would close all windows and doors and shut down the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC). This would create a neutral pressure in the building, meaning the contaminated air would not be drawn into the building.
Shelter-in-place is a short-term measure (measured in minutes or hours, not days) designed to use a facility and its indoor atmosphere to temporarily separate people from a hazardous outdoor environment. The alternative would be to evacuate into a hazardous situation, thereby causing harm to all involved.
No stockpiling of water and food is needed for shelter-in-place. Any event of a magnitude that required such stockpiling would require that we all take our direction from the federal emergency management officials. Parents are concerned that, during a shelter-in-place activity, they couldn’t pick up their children and might be separated from them for long periods of time. That will not happen; if the air outside the school is safe for parents to breathe, it is safe for their children to breathe. School system personnel have developed a plan that uses the best possible method for ensuring the safety of students and staff members in this type of crisis. Remember it is not the school system’s intention to keep children from their parents. HCSD personnel are merely endeavoring to keep children safe for parents until the parents can pick them up.
Why are you keeping children from their parents?
HCSD does not intend to keep children from their parents if a crisis occurs during school hours or school activities. It is the school system’s intent to make sure that children are safe inside their schools until such a time that the threat has been reduced. Parents will be informed of the parent-student reunification site location via the school system emergency messaging system and local media.
Can I pick up my child?
Parents are allowed to pick up their children unless public safety officials have declared a shelter-in-place response, or there is some other reason why access to the facility is restricted. During any emergency, school personnel will maintain as safe and normal environment for children within the school as is possible. School is not automatically canceled in emergency situations. Remember, school may be the safest place for children.
Who can pick up my children?
Children will not be released to individuals who are not authorized on the student’s emergency care card or who do not have written parent authorization. The Student Emergency/Safety Information form is completed by parents and guardians at the start of each school year.
Friends and neighbors may sign a child or children out with written permission from a parent or parents. Both (or all) parents have to give permission in writing for the sign out and pickup. Schools prefer to have written permission on the day that a child’s pickup will change but schools will also keep written permission on file. School offices will keep the permission notes; usually they will attach them to the emergency care card(s) of those involved. Schools will also ask for identification when the child is released to one(s) mentioned in the permission note. It is advisable to communicate with the teacher as well, perhaps with a copy of the signed written note.
Can I contact my child?
Parents are asked not to call the school in emergency situations so phone lines can remain accessible for handling the specific situation. Parents will be kept informed via the HCSS emergency messaging system.
What if my child is riding a school bus at the time of a crisis?
School bus drivers will be in contact with the Office of Transportation for instructions in the event that a crisis occurs while students are in transport. Bus drivers will be informed to use common sense and not travel toward the crisis location. Parents will be informed of the parent-student reunification site location via the school system emergency messaging system and local media.
What is a parent reunification site?
If public safety officials require that a school building be evacuated, students and staff members will be safely transported by bus to a designated parent-student reunification site. Parents will be informed of the reunification location via the school emergency messaging system and local media. At the reunification site, students will be released to their parents upon presentation of proper identification.
Why can’t I be given the evacuation and parent reunification locations ahead of time?
HCSS does not release this type of specific information. Also, during emergency situations, circumstances could arise that might force changes to previously designated locations. Parents will be informed of parent-student reunification site locations via the local media and through school resources.
What measures are being taken for students in trailers?
If an accident or attack occurred in the nearby area, everyone would be brought into the school building, including those in trailers.
What if a child is exposed to a biological or chemical contaminant?
In the event of an exposure and the child is showing obvious symptoms of such, staff members on hand would conduct basic decontamination.
What is basic decontamination?
In the event that your child shows symptoms of exposure, school staff members would conduct basic decontamination. The child would be separated from other children and directed to wash thoroughly with soap and water. If possible, school personnel would make sure that the child showered and would provide alternative clothing. The exposed clothing would be put in plastic bags and the bags would be sealed. Removing a contaminated person’s clothing effectively removes in excess of 80 percent of contaminants from the person; the alternative would be to do nothing and thereby cause the person to suffer pain and possible serious injury.
Are schools stockpiling food and water?
The school system is taking action to make sure that schools and offices have the appropriate resources available for a short-term event. In the event of a large-scale catastrophic situation, HCSS would rely on federal and state authorities for assistance.
There has been no request by state, local or federal crisis experts that we stockpile food or water. The HCSS shelter-in-place plan is to be used only in the event of a chemical, biohazard or radiological event. In any one of these situations, which are usually localized (i.e., do not cover a wide area) persons typically need to remain indoors only a few hours before the hazard literally blows away. After the danger has passed, children and staff members will be free to go to their homes.
There may be other events that would cause people to be housed for longer periods of time in public buildings such as schools. An example would be a bomb attack that has destroyed homes, in such an event, other community agencies, including the Red Cross, would be responsible for providing food and water.
This response would be a shelter, not a shelter-in-place.
In all critical events of this magnitude, the school system becomes part of a larger emergency response team. The county manager and the county crisis response team lead this larger team, whose members have been meeting for over a year and planning the various parts of the response. HCSS has been charged with providing transportation and shelter for the community. Other groups are charged with providing food and water.
Will children be allowed to view events via live television or radio reports?
In the event of a crisis, teachers will be informed as to the appropriate actions to take. Receiving live media coverage in the classroom about crisis will be left up to the schools discretion. Appropriate measures will be taken depending on the age of the students.
How are field trips handled?
The impact of any critical situation on field trips, both system-wide and at individual schools, will depend on the specifics of the situation. If the situation warrants, all field trips will be canceled. All school buses are equipped with radio communications with the transportation office. If a field trip is under way and must be recalled, buses would be directed to return to the school or a designated safe area. Any such
decision will be announced using the HCSD emergency messaging system.