Gary’s Guide to School Safety

by | Sep 7, 2022 | Gary's Blog, Q&A with Gary

Below are some of the questions I received during the August 18 webinar, Using Drills and Exercises to Test Your School’s Emergency Operations Plan, hosted by the Campus Safety Webcast Series.  The replay of the webinar can be found HERE by logging into your existing Campus Safety HQ account, or registering for free. Campus Safety HQ offers hundreds of webinars and valuable resources for free.

Have a question I didn’t answer during the webinar or listed below?  Scroll down and submit your safety or security-related question for me to address.

What are your thoughts about having every safety drill being scheduled so your teachers are aware of them ahead of time?

Although this was common practice when I first started teaching in 1982, it is a fire code violation.  Building administrators should have a schedule they can show to fire officials for tentatively scheduled drills.  Because of the events of the Parkland tragedy, our state fire marshal allows us to announce fire drills right before the drill begins.  We also worked out details with our local fire departments on how we can make accommodations for ADA students and students with special needs so we could consider keeping students safe and not causing harm or trauma to those students.

We always give prior notification of a drill.  It gives time for teachers to review plans, procedures, and processes with their students.  Additionally, when a real event happens, they’ll know it is real because they did not get a prior notification.

As a teacher I never gave pop quizzes for the very same reason.  Although I am not a fan of surprise drills that are frightening, teachers should expect the unexpected for some drills.  NEVER hold an Active Threat Event drill without giving both the staff and students advanced knowledge.  However, during tornado season it would be perfectly acceptable to get on the PA system and calmly say, “Attention, students and staff.  At this time, we will be holding a severe weather drill.  Please move to the tornado safe area for your room.”

During drills and trainings, what accommodations do you make for students with special needs?

We must first make sure all our plans meet both ADA requirements and sufficiently take into account students with special needs.  During drills and trainings, we will follow the accommodations detailed in those plans that are being exercised.

A participant shared the following information during the webinar:

Safe and Sound Schools has a program specific for training individuals with disabilities called Especially Safe.  It is a free resource, including lesson plans and individual emergency plans templates.

A lot of districts have normalized staff training that includes the use of air soft/projectiles.  Are you stating that this should not be used even when students are not present?

My greatest concern is with the possibility of injuries to staff members.  As a police officer/trainer, I have seen agencies trying to out do other agencies by seeing who can make their drills more realistic.  There has yet to be any evidence this increases the competency of school staff during a real event.  Is the risk of injury worth this type of training?

How do you ensure contractors/vendors/substitutes are trained on the emergency plan?

Substitutes should be given a key to their classroom and a folder that contains lesson plans, class rosters, the teacher’s classroom procedures, and your building safety plans.  At minimum, a substitute should know the plans for fire, severe weather, and an intruder.

Contractors and vendors are responsible for their own people in an emergency, but you should share the same plans for them as you do for a substitute.  You also need a method for making sure all contractors and vendors are out of a building in the event of a fire.


You mentioned a new way of handling fire drill evacuations pertaining to safety in the event of a shooter. Can you explain that protocol once again?

The priority is no longer getting out of the building quickly but getting out of the building safely.  When the fire alarm sounds, the teacher should go to the door and look out the window.  Does the door feel hot?  Do you see any threats?  Open the door and look in the hallway. Do you see or hear any threats?  Make eye contact with the teachers in your hallway.  If you feel it is safe, lead your students out of the building from the front of the line, not the back of the line.  Make sure the exit door is held open in case you must quickly re-enter the building.


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