On Tuesday, October 29, 2019, our Executive Director Andrew Roszak had the privilege of delivering the keynote address at the Safety For All: A Blueprint for Schools and Outside Agencies Working Together Conference in Monroe Township, New Jersey. The conference was a collaboration between the Institute for Childhood Preparedness, The New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA), The Foundation for Educational Administration (FEA), NJSACC: The Network for New Jersey’s Afterschool Communities, and Child Care Aware of New Jersey. The day focused on increasing safety and collaboration between after school programs and the schools that host them.
During a typical 8:00 am-3:00 pm school day, many schools employ a wide variety of security apparatus, such as metal detectors, school resource officers, locked doors, and policies for visitors. But, when the bell rings, security features disappear, and after school programs are on their own, unable to benefit from these security systems. It’s important to note that nearly 1/3 of school shootings happen during after school hours; out of 1,421 shooting incidents, 452 occurred after school. One of the conference’s main discussion points was how to implement safety and security measures for after-school programs and ensure organizations running after school programs are included in emergency preparedness plans and drills.
Communication is Key
The conference focused on the need for increased communication between before- and after-school programs. If a school experiences threats or issues during the day, that information should be transmitted to the after-school program right away. It’s also essential that after-school programs understand how school phone and communication systems work. For example, does the after-school staff know how to use the intercom or landline phones? After-school teachers and staff need to know whether they have to dial out to get an outside line, or if can they pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1.
Notification Protocols Before and After School
If an incident occurs after school hours, after-school staff should always notify law enforcement. Just remember, local law enforcement may assume that a school is unoccupied if it is late in the afternoon or early evening.
We also discussed notification protocols regarding incidents in the area. For example, if a bank near a school gets robbed at 1:00 pm, the school will get notified and go on lockdown. But, if this kind of incident happens at 4:30 pm and there are kids playing soccer on the school’s field, who gets notified? How does lockdown look at 4:30 pm versus 1:00 pm?
Panel Discussion with Chief of Police Battiloro
A panel presentation discussed a recent incident at Tamaques School in Westfield, NJ. An individual was sitting in a parked vehicle, directly opposite the school’s main entrance, and he was armed with a fully loaded .45 caliber handgun. Although the suspicious individual was immediately taken into custody by law enforcement, 30 children were attending an after-school program, and law enforcement secured the building through lockdown protocols. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and that is due to the swift and professional actions of law enforcement.
Connecting with Local Organizations Ahead of Time
Do not try to forge partnerships or create plans during a chaotic situation, rather, reach out to local law enforcement, firefighters, emergency response services, social services, licensing officials, emergency planning agencies, and public health experts ahead of time. Forging partnerships early and discussing security protocols is beneficial to schools, staff, children, and parents.
The conference was a great success! We want to extend a thank you to our sponsors: The New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA), The Foundation for Educational Administration (FEA), NJSACC: The Network for New Jersey’s Afterschool Communities, and Child Care Aware of New Jersey.
The Institute for Childhood Preparedness has decades of experience in law enforcement, emergency preparedness, security, and early childhood education. Would your organization benefit from a multidisciplinary workshop on emergency preparedness, response, and recovery planning? Schedule a training, workshop, or site safety survey with us today: https://www.childhoodpreparedness.org/training.