Risk Management: Safety at Schools During Severe Weather
We’re experiencing more frequent and powerful storms with scientists predicting that we will continue to do so in coming years due to rising global ocean temperatures. Moreover, not only will areas currently affected by frequent severe weather events (such as hurricanes and tornadoes) see more violent storms, but also areas not normally affected may experience an increase in severe weather activity. Extreme weather events also include severe winds, snowstorms, earthquakes, fires, lightning, floods, wildfires, etc.
Schools must be prepared to deal with these weather events with comprehensive safety and emergency procedures – with the ultimate goal of any plan to quickly inform teachers and students anywhere on the school grounds to the threat of severe weather and to move them as quickly as possible to pre-designated shelters. The first step in implementing a plan is to understand the dangers involved and why a program is needed. For example, flash floods, severe thunderstorms, and tornadoes occur with rapid onset and perhaps, no warning. Decisions must be made fast and actions taken immediately. One cannot wait for the storms to strike to plan on what must be done to save lives.
Once the scope of the problem is understood, school officials can begin to address how to reduce the potential hazards when it comes to the different types of event (flooding, hail, tornadoes, hurricanes etc.). The next step is to design the actual plan, which should include:
- Individual Responsible for Activating the Plan (including a back-up person)
- How to Receive Emergency Weather Information
- How the School Administration Will Alert Teachers and Students to Take Action
- Determining Safety Zones in Your School
- Provisions for Students in Mobile Classes, Cafeteria, and Gymnasium; Students with Disabilities; Students Outside, Including Those in After-School Activities
- Determining When to Activate Plan and When it is Safe to Return to Normal Activities
- Determining When to Hold Departure of School Buses
- School Bus Actions
- Special Considerations for Specific Weather Hazards
- Need for Periodic Drills and Severe Weather Safety Instruction
What’s more, for any plan to work efficiently, it must be practiced. It is recommended that schools conduct semi-annual drills and that severe weather safety instruction be part of this phase. It is important to understand why certain actions are being taken, to know the weather terms that are being used, and to know what visual clues can signal you to potential dangers ahead.
Having a clear weather policy lets parents, teachers, and students know what to expect. Because this policy is based on a safety issue, there is less likelihood of problems implementing it, even if it means delaying or canceling a sporting event, a concert, or dance. A clear policy makes it easier to make the hard decisions when the time comes and to make them quickly if necessary. Most importantly, it helps to prevent accidents and injuries and protect those in the school’s care.
Caitlin-Morgan provides coverage to many types of educational facilities including higher education facilities like universities, public schools, private & charter schools and schools for special needs. We can also help you with your clients’ risk management needs to help keep students and faculty safe and mitigate exposures. Give us a call at 877.226.1027.