Having confidence in the school our children attend is essential for all parents. Some questions we may have about school safety include:
- What plans has the school administration put in place to ensure the safety of children?
- How does the school handle emergency drills?
- How can I help my child open up about school safety?
“School safety” is a comprehensive term that applies differently to each school. The good thing is, this write-up provides parents with the necessary information about the actions schools take to keep all students prepared and safe when an emergency occurs.
Why Plan for Emergency Drills
School emergency drills are the basis for communicating pertinent information regarding safety during an emergency such as a fire or terrorist attack.
Children spent a lot of time in school – 5 times a week – so safety is paramount. For the safety of students, school administrations and the government recommend emergency drills such as lockdown and fire drills that involve both staff and students.
These safety measures help teachers and students familiarize themselves with emergency procedures. In Singapore, schools perform emergency drills at least twice a year, which is coordinated by MOE and Home Team agencies.
In 2016, the SG Secure movement introduced the “Run-Hide-Tell.” To date, this remains Singapore’s response in case of a terrorist attack or a crisis in school.
The exercises also teach students about the need for community resilience and vigilance, as a way of raising awareness about potential risks.
Why are Emergency Drills Important in Schools?
Safety drills play an important role in all learning institutions. This is because they prepare adults and students about making their way to safety.
Drills help school staff understand their roles and responsibilities. Hence, they are in a better position to guide children during an evacuation or lockdown.
Students must also understand the procedures so that they can follow the lead of adults. Keeping teachers and students up to speed with safety plans helps them remain calm. Moreover, it reduces confusion, panic, and anxiety.
Each person needs to understand their role and plan before an emergency happens.
What’s a Mock Drill?
A mock drill is a set of exercises put in place in preparedness for lockdowns and natural disasters.
Mock drills provide an assessment of the reaction of students and adults. It also shows how they follow safety plans and the time it takes to account for and evacuates each person.
Results from a mock drill are important because they help to pinpoint weak links. It also teaches students to maintain calm and follow instructions. Additionally, it provides the opportunity to ensure everyone uses the right exit route.
Types of Emergency Drills
- Fire drill-Students and teachers evacuate a building when the fire alarm rings. Teachers coordinate to remove students from the building. Afterward, a headcount follows at the assembly point.
- Lockdown drill-Teachers remove students from hallways into the classrooms. Students switch off the lights, lock doors, and everyone remains hidden. An example of a lockdown drill is a shooting incident or a terrorist attack.
How to Conduct Emergency Drills
Like most schools globally, Singapore has embraced emergency drills. It’s a vital step that has helped tackle disasters in learning institutions.
During a drill, the alarm rings over the PA system for about 1 minute. Students are then required to follow the following procedures:
- Leave the classroom as fast as possible
- Wait for instructions from the PA system.
- Walk fast to the assembly point using the shortest available route.
- Wait for further instructions from the administration at the assembly area.
As per SG Secure recommendations, schools perform evacuation and lockdown drills at a specified External Holding Area (EHA). The drills are part of school resolutions to reinforce emergencies.
How to Prepare Young Children for Emergency Drills
Some children may suffer from stress after participating in an emergency drill. As parents, we are in the best position to help our children cope with the aftermath of a safety drill.
Depending on their developmental stage and age, hold an appropriate conversation.
- Speak calmly-Children are like sponges; hence they soak up information quickly. When explaining to them the importance of an emergency drill, ensure they understand the role it plays in their lives. By doing so, they’ll easily follow the teachers’ guidance during a drill.
- Use examples-Most children learn and remember through visual communication. For instance, when explaining the importance of an emergency drill, use the example of a car seat belt. You wear a seatbelt to remain safe during an accident, even though it may never occur.
- Train them on the importance of obedience. Children receive instructions on preparedness from their teachers—stress on the importance of obeying adults and listening. Go through the steps of any drill when they come home from school.
- Allow them to ask questions-Don’t let the imaginations of your child terrify them. Make them comfortable so that they can ask any questions on unexpected emergencies.
How Should Schools Communicate Emergencies to Parents?
Each school has a standard process for parental participation during an emergency crisis. To keep all children safe, parents should understand the school disaster preparedness plan.
False information can spread during unforeseen circumstances at your child’s school. As such, it’s the responsibility of teachers to inform parents of any incident on time.
At the beginning of each new school term, parents can:
- Review the family emergency plans with their children, including communication and reunification alternatives.
- Be conversant with school emergency response plans. They include emergency contact information, meet-up locations, and parental access during emergencies.
- Provide your child’s teacher and school authority with up-to-date contact information. It could be for a friend or family who can pick your child from school when you’re far.
- Provide the school with adequate information about your child’s special needs. Do it through working with the health staff and filling an emergency form. Ensure your child’s health issues are on file in case of an emergency.
Well-planned safety drills enhance children’s knowledge and execution in emergency responses. It also builds their resilience and coordination.
A drill is a test that improves school response planning and risk reduction. Let’s all work towards making schools a safe and peaceful place for learners.