September is National Preparedness Month—a good time to remember that preparedness must be part of everyday lives—at home, at school, and throughout the community.
This means recognizing that safe and prepared schools not only improve the learning environment, but also make communities a safer place. Schools are hubs that connect students and community partners with the resources and support that they need. What children learn about safety and preparedness in school translates into lessons that they take home with them. As such, it is important for faculty, staff, parents, and students to make preparedness part of the daily routine.
Whole community approach
To further strengthen safety, security and emergency management, schools must become proactive partners in community preparedness and community members must play a stronger role in school safety and security.
For example, a comprehensive school emergency planning team includes faculty and staff, local first responders, local emergency managers, and faith-based organizations. Since many of these individuals also are parents, this participation ensures parental input in the planning process without jeopardizing confidential and secure parts of emergency and security plans.
Schools must leverage all of the resources of their community to learn how to prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against incidents on their campuses. Schools then can use community resources to translate partnership measures into teachable moments for faculty, staff and students.
Benefits of the whole community approach include:
- Strong collaboration among schools and community partners
- Better understanding of community needs and ways needs are addressed, particularly when disaster threatens or occurs
- Community partnerships that extend beyond emergency preparedness and benefit children
- Recognition of community capabilities and resources to enhance the abilities of all partners
- Empowerment of schools and communities
This September, use Preparedness Month as an opportunity to strengthen relationships with community partners including, but not limited to: police officers, firefighters, EMS, public health, community leaders, and volunteer organizations.
Invite community partners to:
- Be a part of the emergency planning or review process to ensure that plans address the needs and capabilities of the community.
- Identify ways to strengthen and sustain partnerships and teachable moments throughout the school year.
- Visit campuses for library reading time, career days, or coffee with teachers and staff to develop more positive relationships between schools and community partners.
Including the school community in the school safety and emergency management processes encourages dialogue and helps ensure an efficient and effective response and recovery when bad things happen. More importantly, it enhances community confidence in the ability of schools to provide safe and secure learning environments in which children and thus communities thrive.
For information about emergency management and security, contact Emergency Management and School Security ConsultantMelanie Moss. Visit the National Preparedness Month webpage for more information.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in September 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.