School bus drivers, secretaries, food service staff, and custodians are on the front-lines in schools. But are they on the front lines in school emergency preparedness training and planning?
- School bus drivers are the first and last school employees to see many students each school day, and face the challenges of managing the behavior and safety of groups of students typically larger than the average class size.
- School secretaries take bomb threat calls made to schools and deal with irate parents.
- School custodians and maintenance staff know the physical plant layout and operations better than any other school employee.
- School food services staff not only serve students breakfast and lunch, but also have to know what to do if fights, riots, lockdowns, evacuations, or other safety issues arise in their school cafeterias.
Our school emergency planning evaluation consultations often show that school support staff are often undertrained, not included in school emergency planning, and not members of school crisis teams.
Fortunately, our work with local districts around the county since 2003 on the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) grants has allowed us to work more closely with school support staff. It is amazing how many bus drivers, secretaries, custodians, and food service staff tell us it is the first time they have received school crisis training during their many years on the job. It is equally amazing how interested they are and how much they have to offer in strengthening school emergency plans.
Our goal in engaging school support staff in emergency planning is to generate new conversations and perspectives into school-level and district-level emergency planning processes. Some issues we address and encourage all schools to cover with these valued non-teaching employee groups include:
- Secretary/office support staff safety and crisis issues typically include managing angry and threatening persons, role in access control, parent-student reunification roles, managing bomb threat calls, role on crisis team, etc.
- Custodian and maintenance staff training and planning sessions focus on roles of day and night custodial staff related to security and emergency response, roles on crisis teams for planning, facility information needed in tactical response, procedures for specific emergencies, after-hours emergencies, and related topics.
- Food services conversations tend to include cafeteria security procedures, impact of drills (lockdowns, etc.) during breakfast and lunch periods, emergency food supplies, food security and protection measures, access to food service vendors, role on school and district crisis teams, and related topics.
- Transportation staff discussions often focus on the role of transportation services in school emergencies, preventing and managing violence incidents on the bus, verbal intervention techniques, what to expect if police respond to your bus, bus emergency plans and exercises, and related topics.
School security and emergency training for school support staff is more than providing them with a 20-minute video purchased for the purpose of satisfying minimal training requirements and/or the desire to say “some” type of training was provided. We would not give teachers a 20-minute video on brain research or how to improve test scores as their only in-service, but we often see schools doing this with school safety training for support personnel.
Are your school’s support staff an integral part of school security and emergency preparedness training and planning in your school district?
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