How to prepare Schools for Ebola?

A lingering question that has come across my desk at least a dozen times lately is, “Dr. Shepherd, what are you recommending that schools do about the Ebola crisis?” My response is simple – the same thing that I recommended for schools during the pandemic influenza crisis – make a plan and follow that plan.

The current Ebola situation should be an exercise of biological incident planning for schools. Although, we have not seen US schools completely affected (although there have been a few scares), it is important that school officials begin meeting with local and state public health entities to form a plan of action. There are a few things that schools can do now to prepare for Ebola (and subsequently prepare for the upcoming flu season):

  1. Begin/continue universal health precautions campaigns. Hand washing is still a great infection control method.
  2. Establish and practice disinfecting/decontamination guidelines for all school facilities including support buildings, school buses, and other transportation vehicles.
  3. Developing NIMS (National Incident Management System) compliant protocols, location, equipment and staff assignments. School nurses are the front line people and should be a part of the command staff if not incident commanders of biological incident for schools.
  4. Encouraging parents to have alternative child care plans should closures be necessary in containment and building disinfection/decontamination efforts.
  5. Developing a mental health plan for students and staff, in conjunction with local mental health services staff to implement during an incident. Do not forget that fear, anxiety and panic should be expected and it is important that plans are in place to communicate facts adequately.

It is unlikely that a full blown outbreak will happen, but maintaining a state of readiness for Ebola will prepare all schools and youth based organizations for almost any public health emergency.

For more on this topic, sign up for our newsletter and look for the issue that we will be releasing this week with more detailed information on planning and preparedness for Ebola and other outbreaks. You can also catch my interview with Campus Safety Magazine here!

 

 

 

Safety Line – a Great School Safety Tool

School safety lines can help students and staff reduce the risks of school-traffic incidents in areas where students and cars both move in proximity on a regular basis.  As school traffic-related deaths are one of the leading causes of school related fatalities, stay back lines can be a high impact tool to reduce risk for K12 schools.

School safety lines can help students and staff reduce the risks of school-traffic incidents in areas where students and cars both move in proximity on a regular basis. As school traffic-related deaths are one of the leading causes of school related fatalities, stay back lines can be a high impact tool to reduce risk for K12 schools.

Safety Lines are an Excellent School Safety Strategy

In his groundbreaking report Relative Risk of Death for K12 Schools, Safe Havens International Adjunct Analyst Steve Satterly documents that far more school-related fatalities involve school-related traffic incidents than acts of violence. While all major categories of school safety incidents should be considered, a careful review of available data indicates that improvements in school traffic safety offer some of our greatest opportunities to reduce serious injury and death for school children and school employees.

What are School Safety Lines?

One simple concept that has been helping reduce the risk of traffic safety incidents at K12 schools is called a safety line or “stay back” line. The safety line can take the form of a painted line, icons forming a line, or other visual aid to help students and staff form positive safety habits to help reduce the chances that students will be hit by cars or school buses. Stay back lines clarify safe positioning for students and staff who supervise them.

School Safety Lines are not Just for Elementary Students

While most educators think in terms of pre-k and elementary students when it comes to pedestrian/motor vehicle safety incidents, cases of middle and high school students being seriously injured or killed also take place with regularity. Safety lines can help older students who can be easily distracted while they chat with friends in person or via the web just as they can help younger students who often fail to realize the dangers that motor vehicles can pose to their safety.

School Safety Lines can Significantly Reduce Risk

There are many other simple ways to reduce the risk of school-traffic safety incidents. Our analysts routinely see opportunities for the use of school safety lines along with these other simple, yet impactful ways to reduce the risk of school-traffic safety incidents.

Snakes: An Unusual School Safety Hazard

Safe Havens Adjunct Analyst Steve Satterly encountered this rattlesnake during a school safety assessment in Texas this week. Safe Havens clients have reported concerns ranging from Mountain Lions, Alaskan Brown bears and even aggressive eagles over the years.  Like other types of hazards, potentially dangerous animals can be mitigated with appropriate responses.

Safe Havens Adjunct Analyst Steve Satterly encountered this rattlesnake during a school safety assessment in Texas this week. Safe Havens clients have reported concerns ranging from Mountain Lions, Alaskan Brown bears and even aggressive eagles over the years. Like other types of hazards, potentially dangerous animals can be mitigated with appropriate responses.

Unusual School Safety Hazard Found

Steve Satterly encountered a rather unusual school safety hazard while conducting a school safety assessment in Texas this week. Steve is part of a team of analysts assessing school safety, security, climate, culture and emergency preparedness for the district. Steve and four district personnel encountered the snake just outside the loading dock door of an elementary school. Earlier this month, another one of our analysts had to address an incident with a water moccasin on a school campus followed soon after by an alligator in a pond adjacent to one of his district’s schools.

Potentially Dangerous Animal Hazards

School officials should keep in mind that different people have varying levels of fear regarding what they perceive as dangerous animals. Though very few people die from snakebite, bear and mountain lion attacks in the United States each year, many people are understandably terrified of these animals. Handling these situations properly can not only reduce the actual level of danger posed by animals but the high levels of fear of animals that many students and staff experience.

Our client schools and districts have often reported challenges relating to a variety of wild and domestic animals including bears, mountain lions, white tailed deer, wild pigs, scorpions, poisonous spiders, and a variety of other critters. One of the independent schools we assessed in Africa has a significant problem with eagles snatching food out of the hands of students when they eat outside. Several students have been injured by the talons of these beautiful but massive birds. While many people assume that urban schools do not face these types of issues, a number of our urban school clients have experienced bears and mountain lions on campus.

Far more typically, aggressive dogs are a problem.   One of our clients had a terrible incident where a kindergarten teacher and four of her students were badly mauled on a playground by a large Rottweiler. Proper training and use of the all hazards approach to school crisis planning can go a long way to prepare students and staff for these types of hazards. Our Texas client has provided staff with information on the recognition of poisonous snakes to employees.   Many schools have reported success with reverse evacuation protocols when bears, dogs, and other animals have shown up on campus.

As with other types of hazards, a proper all-hazards approach to school safety can reduce the danger posed by potentially dangerous animals. Calm and rational approaches can help reduce the actual risks of danger as well as the intensive fear that can result from animals on campus.