A Emergency student reunification plan for every school is not a ‘nice to have’ but is a necessity in the aftermath of an emergency incident at any school. We cannot overemphasize the importance of having an emergency plan which can be put in place when an unfortunate incident happens at your school. Listed below are some of the best practices put together by industry leading experts in the Disaster preparedness space(D-PREP) and the largest school safety solution provider (Kid.io) to help prepare your school with a safer reunification process while reducing chaos and time delays.
Best Practices- 6 Essential Steps
1.Pre-planning is key: Identify at least three (3) offsite locations that would be suitable for relocation. Start with a site that is within walking distance and two other locations that students and staff can be transported to. Good reunification locations are other schools with large auditoriums, community centers, and faith based organizations. Get formal Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) from each of these sites and offer to reciprocate, if needed.
2. Information Sharing: Share your relocation information with your local law enforcement, fire department, and EMS. Walk the sites together so everyone is on the same page and do not settle for a phone call. Also make sure you communicate the emergency reunification plan with your parent community at least twice a year.
3. Site Preparation: Store your reunification materials and equipment at each offsite facility in a designated area. Low-cost rolling suitcases work great and can easily be stored. Reunification can often require some essential supplies including pencils, hundreds of release forms, clipboards, etc. We recommend having laminated signage to help organize groups, a compact megaphone, and a small stack of stock cards.
In case your school already uses the Kid.io or PikMyKid platform to manage your daily dismissals, then most of your Emergency Reunification procedures are pre-configured. You will conduct the release just like a regular dismissal, but from an off-site location after confirming parent ‘Announces’. The geo-fence for parent ‘Announce’ will be automatically enhanced to recognize parent arrivals at the alternate reunification location. Using PikMyKid for emergency reunification process however assumes the availability of WiFi access or cellular phone coverage at the offsite location. Make sure when you leave the school facility during an emergency you bring a laptop or mobile devices like cell phones/tablets (anything with a web browser).
Other considerations might be several folding chairs and tables for staff, extension cords and a multi-device charger. DO NOT count on the other facility to have these materials for you, Pre-Plan, Pre-Stage!!!
4.Inform parents and guardians in advance of what to do in the case of an emergency student reunification process. Send out a letter at least twice a year requiring a parent signature that explains your district’s policy and possible designated relocation areas. Take time to explain the following concepts to the parents/guardians:
- DO NOT come to the school because you may impede emergency responders
- DO NOT call the school because you will tie up phone lines
- Turn on local radio and TV for further instructions ( Or wait for push notification from the school via PikMyKid App )
- Keep your mobile devices with you to receive messages from school
- Advise parents that the process will seem chaotic; however, your district has been training and has practiced for such eventualities.
- Instruct parents that the process could take up to five (5) hours for safety reasons and to please be patient. The reality is most reunifications will happen faster but build in some “cushion” time to see the process through to completion
- Inform parents of possible reunification locations offsite and advise them of the student-collection process
- Notify parents and guardians that they must bring ID to pick up their children; but, have a plan if they do not.
In case your school already uses the Kid.io or PikMyKid platform, messages to parents can be automatically sent with the above information once in six months to refresh the emergency procedures in the parents minds.
5. Emergency Contact Information: Have parents/guardians update emergency contact cards at least twice a year. Have an online method for parents/guardians to update.
Again, if your school already uses the PikMyKid platform all contact information of parents are updated on a regular basis and your school dashboard reflects the most current contact information at any point in time.
6.Training is vital: Train all of your staff. Adopt DPREP’s “Vertical Emergency Management” training concept. Simply put, every member of your staff is vital and should be trained to participate in emergency operations.Training should include a scheduled drill at least once per year for staff.