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Crisis Response in the Santa Fe Public Schools

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Be Prepared. Be Safe.

Crisis Response in the Santa Fe Public Schools

Hello, my name is Doug Conwell, and I’m an Emergency Management Specialist. I’m here today to talk to you about the Santa Fe Public Schools’ crisis response plan and emergency preparedness.

Santa Fe Public Schools follows the National Incident Management System and Incident Command System model and guidelines for all of our emergency preparedness and planning. We urge all staff, especially key administrators, to get trained in the Incident Command System. To find out how you can do that, contact your principal or your supervisor.

The three drills that we’ll be talking about today -- Evacuation, Lockdown and Shelter in Place – are conducted at all of our school sites as well as administrative sites. All of our bus drivers are trained and exercise these same drills as well. I appreciate your time and attention to this very important subject.

When I began my teaching career for the Santa Fe Public Schools, I was a teacher at Alameda Middle School -- -- it was Alameda Junior High at the time. I was an eighth grade teacher, and my students, being middle school kids, would often pull the fire alarm. One day, the fire alarm was pulled and I was trying to get my kids lined up to go outside, and being eighth graders, they didn’t seem to pay attention to me. I herded everyone outside in a really disorderly fashion.

And when I got out to where we needed to be, the Assistant Principal came to me and asked me who was present and why the kids weren’t lined up. And I couldn’t tell her exactly who was present because we hadn’t walked out in an orderly fashion and I was trying to figure out who was present and who wasn’t. And I remember she said to me, “How would you feel if these were your children?” It was an “ah-ha moment” for me. Oh my goodness. I really need to make sure that the way we line up and walk outside during any kind of drill is very, very safe for these kids. It was at that time that I realized that safety is a priority.

From then on, I started practicing with my students, and we would line up, and we would practice going outside, because I realized that these were my children.

Shelter in Place

Shelter in Place is a condition where there is a threat outside of your building. This could be a thunderstorm, tornado, animals outside, anything that would make you want to get everyone indoors. You can move around within the building, but depending on the threat, if it’s a tornado, for instance, you might want to move away from windows. So you modify what you’re doing depending on the nature of the threat.

This is an announcement from the Central Office at Eldorado. We are conducting a Shelter in Place drill. Please bring your students in off the playground and recess fields. Indoors, please. Shelter in Place, now.

For the Shelter in Place drill, we bring all students inside where they can be supervised by staff. Shut the windows and sit down and stay safe inside. Teachers take roll, making sure that all students are present and accounted for, and close all windows and doors. You do not need to lock doors in a Shelter in Place drill. The office will notify teachers via the intercom or possibly runners as to what the next steps will be.

One of the fundamental, basic elements of effective crisis response is clear communication. This applies not only to our staff and students, but we find that all of our First Responders know the value and meaning of clear communication amongst themselves and between our schools. When we conduct a drill, or if we are in an actual incident, clear communication can make the difference between safety and non-safety.

This can mean verbal communication from one person to the other. It may also mean using a two-way radio which many of our staff members have, and all of our administrators use. We have the capability of communicating District wide, or within a campus. Two-way radios are an effective part of that communication.

We find that clear communication actually builds teamwork. All of our efforts in crisis response are geared toward making a more effective team. And you just might find that this carries over into your classroom, and into your professional relationships as well.


There is an intruder outside, possibly with a weapon. Please, let’s prepare for a lockdown. Students, can I have you come over here please -- quickly and quietly.

In a lockdown, no one is allowed in or out of the classroom. This is a response to possibly an active shooter in the building. Teachers will take the following steps in the classroom. Make sure that the blinds are closed, your door is locked, and the lights are off. Students are gathered on the floor, out of the line of sight of windows and doors. Roll call is taken. Teachers communicate the names of any missing students to the front office. During a lockdown, you never open your door for anyone. The only way you come out of a lockdown is for someone who is authorized with a key to open your classroom door.

For the lockdown, or the shelter in place, we have a bucket. The bucket has many uses. Its primary use would be -- if you really are in a lockdown situation for any length of time -- you might have to use this as a portable toilet. Inside this bucket we have water, some snacks, perhaps a granola bar. There is duct tape to tape up windows if you are experiencing damaging winds. Toilet paper, perhaps some dressings in case somebody was actually injured. It’s just to get you through the necessities of life while you’re in a lockdown situation.

Part of teamwork is the principle of accountability. When First Responders show up at the scene, they want to know who’s present, and who’s missing. So therefore it’s going to be very important that you, as a staff member, know who’s missing. Know who is in your group, whether it’s the classroom or your working group, your staff members, perhaps other bus drivers, depending on the situation in which you find yourself. Accountability is essential.

We look at accountability to be very, very important in Incident Command. When we arrive on scene, and we take over Incident Command from whoever is in charge, the first thing we are going to ask is if they have accountability. If for some reason we do not have full accountability, we will make that extra effort to do the search and rescue and to find those individuals and worry about the actual fire secondarily, or simultaneously, if we can. But our main concern is going to be life safety. And that is going to put our fire fighters in danger.


You’ll notice there isn’t a page here that says “Fire Drill." People say, “Where’s the fire drill one?” But that is actually evacuation, when we have to leave the building when there is a threat inside the building. This could be something like a gas leak, a fire -- some reason to leave the building and get to a place of safety.

In an evacuation of the school building, leave the building in orderly lines, quietly, until you are in your primary location where you can take accountability of the students who are present and who might be missing. You may be told that you can return to the building safely, or that you may have to leave campus and move to your off-site location. It’s possible you may be walking to that location, or, if appropriate, bused.

When we move into an evacuation, we have available for teachers a "grab-and-go" bag. In that bag, they should have the roster of their students. There is a safety vest for them to wear so that they can be easily identified as an adult to go to. And a few little supplies in there that could help – hard candy for anyone who needs to get their blood sugar up, water, a few Band-Aids, not a major medical supply, but just in case there are minor injuries.

And there is also a card that each teacher carries that is construction paper -- red on one side, green on the other -- so they can easily hold that up after they’ve checked to make sure they have all their students. If everybody is accounted for, they hold up the green sign. If they are missing someone, or a student had been in another classroom, or perhaps in the bathroom, and isn’t with them in line, then they would hold up that red card, and then the crisis response person can go to them, find out who's missing, and radio that to Incident Command and reconcile where that student might be.

In drills, and especially if there is a threat and we are in an emergency situation, teachers need to be mature and responsible. Even though they might want to complain that they are taking up class time to run a drill, or they are frustrated at the administration for whatever reason, they should not let the students see that. They need to stay really mature throughout the entire situation and they need to let the students know that they are serious, even though it might just be a fake fire drill, or they might just be walking to the tennis courts, just so that they know how to do it, they shouldn’t complain. The teachers who are serious about what is going on are going to have the safest classes during real emergencies and their students will follow them.

After a situation, even if it’s a drill, sometimes it’s a good idea to check in with kids, just to find out if everybody’s OK -- -- do you understand why we did that drill? -- so that they can get back to learning. Because sometimes they could be activated. They could have been in a fire in the past, and even a drill could cause them to be afraid. So you need to remember to be calm, and to check in with your students. Reassure them that they did a great job. If they didn’t, kindly correct what they might have done differently.

If you practice and train for emergencies at a younger age, you have a tendency to continue doing it throughout your adulthood. And when an emergency occurs, you are better prepared for it. And if you plan ahead, it becomes less of an emergency.

It’s important to take every emergency situation and every drill really seriously because even if you’re in the school district for 30 years and you’ve gone through hundreds of drills, and nothing’s happened while you were there, by doing those drills and taking everything seriously, you’ve made a difference, you’ve trained those students a little bit better, you’ve made the school a little bit safer, and maybe in ten years after you leave, when an incident takes place, all of those trainings that you worked through and all of those problems that you resolved during those drills, they might save lives – – they might be your grandchildren, or members of your community. You might think all the drills were silly and time consuming, but they’re really not going to be when something really happens.

Research has shown that the most important and effective way to prevent violence in our schools is creating a positive school climate. What does that mean? It means a place where students feel safe, and they also feel valued, and they have at least one significant, positive relationship with an adult. It could be with a teacher, it could be with a custodian, a bus driver, a secretary, but they need to have at least one of those positive relationships to create the kind of caring community that we know effectively prevents violence in our schools. So everybody in our school community has an important role to play in creating a positive, caring school community. And that means you!

Special Thanks To

Video Details

Duration: 13 minutes and 52 seconds
Year: 2012
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Santa Fe Public Schools
Director: Teri Thomson Randall
Views: 66
Posted by: terirandall on Mar 17, 2013

This safety training video produced by the Santa Fe Public Schools demonstrates the Shelter-In-Place, Lockdown, and Evacuation drills. It also discusses Incident Command, clear communication, accountability, and the importance of a positive, caring school community.

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