School Safety / School Emergencies
School Safety: A Shared Responsibility
Parent Information for School Emergencies
As part of an ongoing commitment to community information and partnerships, personnel from District 15, District 211 and the Palatine Police Department presented a community education session on the topic of school safety in April 2018. Click here or the image below to view the presenstation.
District 15 is strongly committed to school safety. This commitment is demonstrated through the following actions:
- The implementation of a Standardized School Crisis Plan, created in conjunction with representatives from police and fire departments, that is designed to enable school personnel to respond appropriately to a variety of emergency and/or crisis situations that may occur on or near a school.
- The formation of a District 15 Safety Committee that is comprised of parents, teachers, administrators, and representatives from police and fire departments from Hoffman Estates, Palatine, and Rolling Meadows that meets quarterly to review and improve on district-wide safety policies and practices.
- Conducting the following drills at each school on an annual basis as required by Illinois School Code:
- Three evacuation drills. One of the three evacuation drills must be supervised by the appropriate fire department.
- One bus evacuation drill.
- One law enforcement drill. Each school in D15 completes two law enforcement drills annually. One of these two law enforcement drills must be a staff initiated lock-down.
- One severe weather and shelter-in-place drill.
- Updating the District’s mass communication tools to allow for communications to be sent rapidly to parents via phone, text, and/or e-mail.
- Conducting an annual drill review meeting with principals and representatives from police and fire departments to continuously improve each school’s readiness to respond to an emergency and/or crisis situation.
- Implementation of a visitor management system (e.g. Raptor) that screens visitors at each school against national sex offender databases.
- Implementation of an online bullying and safety reporting center that allows students, parents, staff, and community members to report concerns either by name or anonymously.
- Installation and regular testing of silent alarms at each school.
- Installation of video cameras at the main entrance at each school.
- Implementation of a system known as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) at each school in the District that is designed to teach, model, and reinforce desired student behaviors. PBIS also provides supports to students who are struggling behaviorally.
Please note that the above list of actions are not representative of all measures that are taken to promote a safe and orderly learning environment at each school in District 15.
Parent Roles and Responsibilities Before, During, and After Emergency/Crisis
Although there are many safety measures in place at each school in the District, an emergency or crisis situation may still occur. Parents should consider the following actions before, during, or after an emergency or crisis situation:
- Speak regularly with your child(ren) about the importance of reporting any concern(s) that they have about safety to an adult either at school or at home so that their concern can be acted upon.
- Similarly, contact building administration to report any concerns that you have regarding school safety so that your concern(s) can be acted upon.
- In the event of an emergency or crisis, a parent’s first instinct may be to go to the school immediately. Instead, help law enforcement and school officials to keep the parking lot clear and roadways leading to the area open so that the appropriate first responders can arrive on the scene as quickly as possible. Once onsite, the responders will require staging space for vehicles and personnel. Staying clear of the school will help ensure a swift arrival of first responders.
- Stay home or at your workplace to receive updates via text / phone / email OR wait to be informed of a location in community where you can go to receive real-time updates from law enforcement / district officials / designated liaisons. Each municipality with schools in District 15 (Hoffman Estates, Palatine, and Rolling Meadows) have a number of locations that can be used to provide in-person information about an emergency to parents and community members. To maintain both flexibility and to ensure security of these various sites, additional locations in each community will not be shared until the day of an incident.
- Make sure your emergency contact information is up-to-date and includes accurate cell phone numbers and email addresses so that there is not a delay in contacting you in the event of an emergency. Also make sure you list trusted adults as emergency contacts who would be able to pick up your child if you are not available. Without exception, students will be released only to their parents, legal guardians, or emergency contacts identified in registration materials during an emergency or crisis situation.
- Social media is a powerful communication tool, but in the event of a crisis or an emergency, rely on information provided by school officials and law enforcement, and refrain from posting incomplete or unconfirmed details that may fuel confusion and/or fear in the community.
Partnerships with Police and Fire Departments
District 15 enjoys a positive working relationship with police and fire departments. This relationship has been built over time based on: a shared commitment for school safety; a focus on continuous growth and improvement; open communication; and trust. District 15 is grateful for the important service that police and fire departments provide for our schools and respective communities.
Definition of Terms
District 15 recognizes that school personnel and emergency responders may use terms when discussing emergency and/or crisis response that might not be known to all parties. Three commonly used terms in school safety, along with their definitions, are listed below.
Soft Lockdown Procedures—A soft lockdown is primarily used in two different scenarios. The first is when conditions exist outside of the school building that could potentially present a threat to the safety of the students and staff. The second is a situation inside the building where the school or local emergency responders need to keep students and staff in their classrooms and away from an incident or activity. During soft lockdowns, students and staff can continue normal classroom activities, but they should not leave the classroom or offices until advised to do so. Additionally, no one is allowed to enter or leave the building until the soft lockdown has ended.
Hard Lockdown Procedures—A hard lockdown is used when a serious/volatile situation exists that could jeopardize the physical safety of the students and staff. During a hard lockdown, staff members will ignore all bells and fire alarms unless they receive verbal instructions from local emergency responders or the conditions (fire, structural damage, etc.) warrant the evacuation of the area. Additionally, no one will be allowed to enter or leave the building until the hard lockdown has ended.
Relocation (Evacuation) Procedures—An evacuation may be necessary whenever it is determined that it is safer outside the building than inside the building. In situations where weather is inclement or students and staff will be required to evacuate for an extended period of time, an off-campus evacuation may be initiated rather than evacuating to the on-campus location. Conditions requiring an evacuation may include a fire, an explosion, a hazardous material release within the building, or some type of structural failure in the building.
Severe Weather Watch—A tornado watch means that conditions in the area are such that a tornado is possible. No siren will be sounded when the National Weather Service issues a tornado watch.
During a tornado watch, all activities should continue as usual. Classes should be dismissed at the regular time, etc., but children who ride buses should be kept inside the school until their buses arrive, and students who walk home should be advised to go straight there.
Severe Weather Warning—A tornado warning means a tornado has actually been sighted or has touched down in District 15 or the surrounding area. When a tornado warning is issued, sirens are activated by Palatine, Rolling Meadows, and Hoffman Estates police departments. This warning will be a three-minute, sustained, steady blast.
If school is in session when notification of a tornado warning is received from the National Weather Service via the schools’ weather alert receivers, children will be required to remain in school. School personnel should stop all outside activity, and allow no one in areas under large roof spans, such as gymnasiums.
Each school has devised a “take cover” plan that is best suited to its unique building characteristics, and principals and emergency management have cooperatively identified the safest places to take shelter in each building. When a warning is issued, all personnel and students should leave their classrooms, closing the doors on their way out, and go directly to the area designated as the tornado shelter. Once there, children must sit on the floor with their backs to the wall and their heads in their folded arms.
Under no circumstances will classes be dismissed as long as a tornado warning is in effect. Once the warning has expired and the danger has passed, an “all clear” message and updates on the status of the emergency weather conditions will be sent from the superintendent’s office, at which point children can be dismissed.
If a tornado warning occurs at regular dismissal time, every effort should be made to bring the students back into the building and provide them shelter until the “all clear” signal is given. At that time, walkers can be dismissed, and bused children can be picked up at their schools in the normal sequence on a delayed basis.