|Emergency Preparedness FAQ|
WHAT IS EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS?
Emergency preparedness is essentially preparing and reviewing the steps one would take in the event of an emergency and includes such things as maintaining current contact information, establishing clear lines of communication and establishing evacuation plans. The Pennsbury School District has taken steps to provide for your childís safety while in school by making certain that each school has a crisis response plan in place which includes emergency preparedness procedures.
HOW CAN I STAY INFORMED?
The Pennsbury School District broadcasts emergency messages, when necessary, using a number of media. General emergency messages, late openings or early dismissals and school closings can be found on the School Districtís Web site at www.pennsbury.k12.pa.us , on Cable Channel 28, on radio at WBCB 1490 AM or KYW 1060 AM, and on local television stations. There is also an emergency information call box available at 215-428-4100, ext. 8.
HOW WILL MY CHILDíS SCHOOL HANDLE AN EMERGENCY SITUATION?
All Pennsbury Schools have a crisis response plan in place. The response to each situation will differ based on the nature and the specifics of the event. Dedicated communication links have been established with local and county authorities in order to provide the most current and accurate information during an emergency. In general, the crisis response plan at the school and district level involves the designation of a crisis management team; the development of evacuation, shelter-in-place, and lockdown procedures; the designation of central gathering sites within a school; the preparation of a crisis response kit for each building, and the provision of added emergency personnel for each school before, during, and after an event. All crisis response plans are regularly reviewed and updated.
WHAT IS A LOCKDOWN?
An emergency may prevent the safe evacuation of a school building or an evacuation may not be the most prudent thing to do during certain situations. Such events may require steps to isolate students and staff from danger by instituting a school lockdown. In a lockdown situation, all students are kept in classrooms or other designated locations away from the danger. Faculty members are responsible for accounting for all students and ensuring that no one leaves the safe area. School personnel will also secure building entrances in order to prevent unauthorized individuals from leaving or entering the building. Parents will be permitted access to the building and their children if it is safe for them to do so.
UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES IS A LOCKDOWN USED?
A lockdown is used in those instances wherein the safety of the students is perceived to be at risk due to the possibility of unauthorized intrusion or because of some external event that requires maximum vigilance and building security. A lockdown can occur at a single school, several schools or on a district-wide level. Such an action would be taken based on the level of threat and the advice of local, county, state and/or federal agencies.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF AN ACT OF WAR OCCURS WHILE STUDENTS ARE IN SCHOOL?
The actions taken by the Pennsbury School District will depend on the specifics of the situation. Any action will take into account the advice of local, county, state and federal agencies and the determined level of threat.
WHAT IS SHELTER-IN-PLACE?
Shelter-in-place is a short-term measure (minutes or hours, not days) designed to use a facility and its indoor atmosphere to temporarily separate people from a hazardous outdoor environment. The alternative would be to evacuate into a hazardous situation, thereby causing harm to all involved. Shelter-in-place is a short-term solution to a short-term problem. For example, if an event created contaminated air within close proximity to the Pennsbury School District, everyone would be brought indoors, including those students in modular classrooms assuming the problem was not imminent. Building personnel would close all windows and doors and shut down the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems (HVAC). This would create a neutral pressure in the building meaning that the contaminated air would not be drawn into the building. No stockpiling of water and food is needed for a shelter-in-place procedure as described. Any event of a magnitude that required such stockpiling would also require that we take our direction from Bucks County emergency officials. Parents may be concerned that during a shelter-in-place situation they couldnít pick up their children or that they might be separated from them for long periods of time. That should not happen. If the air outside is safe for parents to breathe, it is safe for their children to breathe. It is not the intention of the Pennsbury School District to keep children from their parents. It is the Districtís intent to keep children safe until their parents can safely pick them up or until dismissal procedures can be initiated.
WHAT MEASURES ARE BEING TAKEN FOR STUDENTS IN MODULAR CLASSROOMS?
If an accident or an attack that created contaminated air occurred in a nearby area, students in modular classrooms would be brought into the main school building assuming that such a procedure would not place students in harm's way. In the event that a lockdown procedure was initiated, the same steps would be followed.
ARE SCHOOLS STOCKPILING FOOD AND WATER?
The school district is taking action to make certain that all schools and offices have enough bottled water and other appropriate resources available for a short-term event. These resources would be sufficient for emergencies and certain medical needs. In the event of a large scale catastrophic event, the Pennsbury School District would rely on county and state emergency agencies for assistance. In the event that our schools were to become emergency shelters for the community at large over an extended period of time, the District would again rely on those same agencies for assistance in terms of food and other necessary resources
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY CHILD IS RIDING A SCHOOL BUS AT THE TIME OF A CRISIS?
All of our school buses are equipped with two-way radios allowing our drivers to be in direct contact with our Transportation Office at any time. School bus drivers would receive instructions as to the action to be taken in the event that a crisis occurs while students are in transit. Depending on the circumstance, bus drivers may be directed to proceed to their normal stops or to an alternative destination in order to avoid the crisis location. Parents would be notified either through the emergency call chains which are in place in our elementary schools or through the previously mentioned media regarding the location of their children.
WILL I HAVE ACCESS TO MY CHILD(REN) DURING A CRISIS?
Parents are allowed to pick up their children unless public safety officials declare an emergency that restricts travel or for some other reason that restricts access to the school. It is not the intent of the Pennsbury School District to keep children from their parents. If it is safe for parents to come to the school, it is safe to release students to their parents. All parents are reminded that school may be the safest place for children to be.
WHO CAN PICK UP MY CHILD?
Children will not be released to individuals who are not authorized on the studentís emergency card or who do not have written parent authorization. Friends or neighbors may sign out a child or children with written permission from a parent or guardian. Under extreme conditions, or a catastrophic event that requires extraordinary measures, or emergency evacuation procedures, any step deemed necessary by school personnel to keep children out of harm's way will be exercised.
WHAT ABOUT MY CHILDíS MEDICATION?
If your child takes medication regularly, it is vital that our school nurses are so informed and that an appropriate amount of medication is on hand in the nurseís office. Medication is dispensed in accordance with established District policy and procedures. Speak with your childís school nurse for more information or if you have any questions.
CAN I CONTACT MY CHILD?
It is important to recognize that in an emergency situation cell phone and land phone circuits may become overloaded. The District realizes that students who have cell phones will use them to contact parents during an emergency situation. To the extent possible, parents should limit their attempts to call the school.
HOW WILL MY CHILD KNOW WHAT TO DO IN THE EVENT OF A CRISIS SITUATION?
Parents are asked to inform their children that if a crisis occurs while they are in school, their teachers will provide them with instructions about what to do. Parents are also encouraged to prepare a family disaster plan and to practice it so that everyone in the household knows what part to play in the familyís response and recovery efforts. Children should be taught to recognize danger signals. Make certain they know what smoke detectors, fire alarms and local community warning systems (horns, sirens) sound like. Be certain that an alternative means of entry into a house is available in the event that the automatic garage door opener doesnít work because the electricity is out.
WILL MY CHILD BE ALLOWED TO VIEW EVENTS VIA LIVE TELEVISION OR RADIO REPORTS?
In the event of a terrorist attack or other crisis, live coverage will be limited. The age of the child will be considered. Building level principals will direct teachers as to the appropriate measures to take.
HOW WILL CLASSROOM EXTENTION TRIPS BE HANDLED?
The impact of any critical situation on classroom extention trips, district wide or with individual classes, will depend on the specifics of the situation. If the event warrants, all trips will be canceled. Cancellations may also include athletic events, community programs or other events. There may be circumstances that require the cancellation of trips to certain areas. If a trip is under way and must be recalled, bus drivers will be directed to the appropriate location. Such decisions will be made at the District level with the safety of the students in mind. Parents are reminded the Pennsbury School District retains the right to cancel any trip or event for safety reasons and is not responsible for any financial obligations parents may have.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THOSE CHILDREN WHO ARE INVOLVED IN AFTER SCHOOL CARE PROGRAMS IN THE EVENT OF A CRISIS REQUIRING AN EMERGENCY EVACUATION OF A SCHOOL?
The District will contact all known agencies that provide after school care in order to determine whether or not the agency will maintain normal operations during such a crisis. The Pennsbury School District does have a standard early dismissal procedure in place. In a typical early dismissal sequence, the mentioned agencies send their vans to the schools to pick up those students involved in their respective after school care programs. If it is determined that such an agency will not dispatch their vans or buses to the school during an emergency evacuation, parents will be notified that an alternative arrangement must be made for the child to get home. It will be the parentís responsibility to make such an arrangement and to inform the principal accordingly.
DURING A CRISIS SITUATION WILL STUDENTS BE DISMISSED IN THE TYPICAL MANNER STARTING WITH THE HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL AND ENDING WITH THE ELEMENTARY LEVEL?
The order in which students are to be dismissed will depend on the circumstances and the specific issues at hand. The District will reverse the order of dismissal starting with elementary students first if an emergency dismissal is warranted.