Effective November 1, 2010, New Jersey schools are required to conduct one school security drill and one fire drill each month that school is open. This represents a significant increase in the number of school security drills compared to previous years.
The statute defines a school security drill as “an exercise, other than a fire drill, to practice procedures that respond to an emergency” including a non-fire evacuation, lockdown, bomb threat, or active shooter situation. The duration of a school security drill is similar to that of a fire drill.
The goal of any drill is to familiarize students and staff with procedures so they will feel comfortable, safe, and secure in a real emergency. We embrace the new mandate as an ongoing opportunity for practicing our security procedures, but recognize that the increased frequency of drills may heighten anxiety for some students. To lessen that, our staff will discuss the school security drills with students in an age-appropriate context.
The procedures that apply to various crisis situations are defined by each school’s Crisis Management Plan. The plan was developed in close collaboration with local and regional law enforcement, and emergency management agencies, and is reviewed and revised frequently to ensure our readiness to respond to any emergency or crisis situation.
The drill requirements include mandatory type drills that must be completed at least twice a year. This would include evacuation drills and an active shooter drill. Due to confusion in the past at other schools where actual incidents have occurred, “Code Words” are no longer used in announcing a drill. For example we will no longer use a phrase like “Mr. Smith is in the building” to advise staff that we are going into a lockdown drill or situation. Not only does this avoid confusion, it also allows your child to get comfortable with hearing these announcements, and thereby hopefully relieving some of the stress they may experience if an actual event would occur.
Each school’s emergency response plan is consistent with its unique school environment. So, while evacuation routes and assembly areas may vary among schools depending upon the facility and its grounds, the methods in which our schools respond to a crisis situation are procedurally consistent. This allows emergency personnel to know in advance what they should expect to see at any given school when they are required to respond, as well as allowing teachers who teach at more than one school, including substitutes, to know that the procedures are the same for every school in the district.
In a real emergency, the district will work closely with, and be directed by, local police and other emergency management officials. Parents will play an essential role in keeping students safe during an emergency. Please consider the following guidelines so that you can help our staff respond effectively:
- Keep your emergency contact information up-to-date. In the event of a real emergency, we will activate our Global Network Notification System and call parents at their supplied contact numbers (home, cell, office). If your contact information changes during the school year, please notify your child’s school of the as soon as possible. If you have children in multiple schools, please notify all of the schools.
- Calls notifying parents of an emergency situation will be made as soon as practical – that is, once the situation has been assessed. When warranted, we will also provide updates via follow-up calls using the Global Connect Notification System.
- All of the school building’s outside doors are kept locked throughout the school day. Please do not rush to school to pick up your child. This could put you at risk and compromise the secured environment. Police may bar parents from school grounds in some emergencies. The safety of our students is paramount and we will reunite students and parents as soon as possible.
- Remind your students that the unauthorized use of cell phones is prohibited during school hours, including during school security drills and fire drills. Security professionals also advise that the use of cell phones during an actual emergency can lead to confusion and misinformation. Remind your students that you will receive calls from the district in an emergency situation.
A proactive approach to crisis management involves planning and practice. I would encourage you to speak to your child(ren) about these drills and their feelings. Express to them that these drills are for their safety, and that they should follow the instructions given to them in order to keep them safe. If you feel your child may be nervous, afraid or experience some anxiety during these drills, please feel free to contact me, the student’s guidance counselor or the school principal, so we can try to assist your child during the drills and take the anxiety out of the experience. We look forward to working with our staff, students, parents, law enforcement, and emergency management officials as we strengthen our school security procedures through these state-mandated drills.
David E. Bauman
Haddon Heights School District
School Supportive Assistant
Special Law Enforcement Officer
(856) 547-1920 Ext. 1038