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Make your classroom safe for weather and violent emergencies

Make your classroom safe for weather and violent emergencies

Today school safety encompasses all aspects of keeping staff and students safe and secure in the learning environment. For teachers who have both a legal and an ethical duty to protect, providing a safe environment is now one of the cornerstones of any educational program. As the primary custodians of students during the school day, classroom teachers must be prepared for any and every situation that may present a danger to themselves or others.


Do have a plan

Each and every teacher should have a plan in place prior to any type of school-based incident occurring. Survey your room and look for places to find cover or concealment. Determine where you and your students will sit during a lockdown or shelter-in-place. Be familiar with the location and operation of all exits, and have a back-up plan in place if your primary plan must be abandoned for any reason.

Do practice your safety drills

In addition to any mandated school safety drills, make sure you practice your drills with your students. You can practice drills in many different age appropriate ways including simply discussing or explaining the safety plan with your students, assigning in class or homework that involves your safety plan, or even performing tabletop exercises with students where they must quickly adapt to a variety of changing safety challenges.

Do talk to your students

Be sure to talk to your students prior to a safety incident in your class or school. Let them know that there are plans in place and that all school personnel are dedicated to making sure they safely return home at the end of each day. Make sure that they are aware that safety involves more than just active shooter incidents, but can also run the gamut from weather related incidents to dangers on or around the school property such as broken glass, hidden weapons, or syringes filled with drugs.

Do stay calm

Remember, as their teacher all eyes are upon you. You must stay calm and let your students know that everything will be fine as long as they follow directions and implement the plan that you have practiced. No matter what age your students are they will be looking to you for both assurance and directions. It is imperative that during school safety incidents you remain calm and provide the necessary leadership to help your students and yourself survive the event.

Do respond

Responding to the incident sounds like common sense, and yet many times teachers who do not have a plan and do not practice their plan discover that under duress they simply freeze-up or freak out. Either of these options are not acceptable and can actually make the situation worse. As a teacher you have a duty to respond by remaining calm, taking control of the situation, and providing both the leadership and comfort needed during times of crisis.


Do not think it can’t happen where you are

Every school in the country is at risk for various types of safety incidents, ranging from school shooters to weather emergencies such as tornados or snowstorms. Schools are also sites of both workplace violence and domestic violence, and can experience both manmade and natural events from fires to floods. Don’t bury your head in the sand and think it can’t happen where you are or you may find yourself ill prepared when an emergency occurs.

Do not frighten students

School shootings are major news stories across the country. Instead of talking to students about the details of these tragic events, take time to make the headlines a teachable moment by discussing what they would do if placed in a similar situation. Let them know that that the school has extensive plans to ensure their safety, and take time to answer questions about specific elements of the school's plan or their role in school safety.

Do not make unreasonable demands

Be familiar with your class and do not make unreasonable demands. Understand that your plan might call for total silence, but speaking calmly and quietly with your students throughout the event might actually be the best course of action. Remember, as a teacher you have the legal duty to protect, whereas students simply need to be focused on surviving.

Do not wait until a crisis happens

Practice situational awareness both in and around your classroom. Know where your exits are located wherever you are in your building. Be familiar with lockdown, shelter-in- place and evacuation plans, and know how to implement each at a moment’s notice from any location in your school including the cafeteria, gymnasium, adjacent hallways or other instructional areas.

Do not forget safety supplies

More than just bandages and ointment, safety supplies for the classroom can include flashlights, battery powered radios, blankets and water. Remember, an actual lockdown may last hours and teachers must be prepared to establish temporary bathroom facilities within the class, so items such as trash cans, plastic bags and a sheet that can be temporarily hung using a rope or string can be of vital importance. Prior to the beginning of the year, inventory your classroom and stock up on all necessary safety supplies.

Jumping cartoon

Each year schools are faced with a wide variety of school safety incidents ranging from violence to weather emergencies. Classroom teachers can prepare for these incidents by having a proper plan and practicing school safety drills. Remember a school safety incident can happen anywhere, so have the necessary school safety supplies on hand and don’t wait until a crisis happens to plan and prepare.

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John MatthewsExecutive Director

John Matthews is the Executive Director of the Community Safety Institute (CSI) and an Assistant Chief Deputy Constable for the Dallas County Constable’s Office Precinct #1. Matthews has developed over 100 law enforcement and public safety initi...

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