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Emergency Preparedness - Frequently Asked Questions

What is emergency preparedness?

WASD strives to maintain a safe and secure learning environment for our students. Each school has developed a crisis response plan. Emergency preparedness is basically preparing the steps you will take in the event of an emergency, such as contact information, communications, and evacuation plans. Our Emergency Operation Plan is reviewed yearly with local law enforcements and Emergency Response organizations.

How can I stay informed?

WASD broadcasts emergency messages, when necessary, using a number of media. General emergency messages, early and late school openings and closings can be found on the school district public web home page www.wallenpaupack.org. Emergency phone messages are also sent to families and staff by our automatic calling system. Emergency messages are also transmitted to local media, and parents are encouraged to listen to radio or television.

How will my child's school handle an emergency situation?

All public schools in Pennsylvania are required to have an emergency preparedness plan. The specifics of each plan differ for each location. The response to each situation will differ based on the specifics of that situation. The flexibility of the plan is key to the success of the response. In general, each plan involves the designation of a crisis management team; development of evacuation, shelter-in-place, and lockdown procedures; preparation of a portable critical response kit that contains key information and supplies; designation of one or more appropriate evacuation sites; provisions for training personnel and updating the plan; checklists for dealing with specific types of incidents; and resources for help before, during and after an event. All WASD school plans have been reviewed within the last twelve months, and school crisis teams have received training. While the school specific plan is exempt from release to the public, the template that schools use to construct their plan is available at http://www.pema.pa.gov/planningandpreparedness/communityandstateplanning/Pages/All-Hazards-School-Safety-Planning-Toolkit.aspx

How can I see the security plan for my child's school?

WASD does not release this type of specific information, pursuant to the Pennsylvania Right to Know Act. This law provides specific exclusions to the type of information that can be released. The Crisis Management Workbook, which serves as the template that schools use to construct their own site-specific plans, is available at http://www.pema.pa.gov/planningandpreparedness/communityandstateplanning/Pages/All-Hazards-School-Safety-Planning-Toolkit.aspx.

What is lockdown?

An emergency may prevent the safe evacuation of a school building and require steps to isolate students and faculty from danger by instituting a school lockdown. In an interior lockdown situation, all students are kept in classrooms or other designated locations that are away from the danger. Faculty members are responsible for accounting for students and ensuring that no one leaves the safe area. School personnel will also secure building entrances, to prevent unauthorized individuals from entering the building. Exterior lockdown procedures may also be used to ensure the safety of students when an incident occurs in the community. Parents are permitted access to the building and to their children if it is safe for them to do so.

In the event of a terrorist attack or other emergency situation, will WASD go into lockdown?

The specific actions taken by WASD  in any emergency situation-both district wide and at individual schools-will depend on the specifics of the situation. Any action taken would depend on several factors, including the level of threat and the advice of local, state, and federal agencies. The safety of students and staff members will be the primary concern in any decision.

What is shelter-in-place?

Shelter-in-place is a short-term solution to a short-term problem. If an accident or attack that created contaminated air occurred in the nearby area, everyone would be brought indoors, including those in trailers. Building personnel would close all windows and doors and shut down the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC). This would create a neutral pressure in the building, meaning the contaminated air would not be drawn into the building.

Shelter-in-place is a short-term measure (measured in 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.

No stockpiling of water and food is needed for shelter-in-place. Any event of a magnitude that required such stockpiling would require that we all take our direction from the federal emergency management officials. Parents are concerned that, during a shelter-in-place activity, they couldn't pick up their children and might be separated from them for long periods of time. That will not happen; if the air outside the school is safe for parents to breathe, it is safe for their children to breathe. School system personnel have developed a plan that uses the best possible method for ensuring the safety of students and staff members in this type of crisis. Remember, it is not the school system's intention to keep children from their parents. WASD personnel are merely endeavoring to keep children safe until the parents can pick them up.

Why are you keeping children from their parents?

WASD does not intend to keep children from their parents if a crisis occurs during school hours or school activities. It is the school system's intent to make sure that children are safe inside their schools until such a time that the threat has been reduced. Parents will be informed of the parent-student reunification center location via the school Global Connect phone system and local media.

What is a parent reunification site?

If public safety officials require that a school building be evacuated, students and staff members will be safely transported to a designated parent-student reunification center. Parents will be informed of the reunification location via the school Global Connect phone system and local media. At the reunification center, students will be released to their parents upon presentation of proper identification.

Why can't I be given the evacuation and parent reunification locations ahead of time?

WASD does not release this type of specific information, pursuant to the Pennsylvania Right to Know Act. This law provides specific exclusions to the type of information that can be released. Also, during emergency situations, circumstances could arise that might force changes to previously designated locations. Parents will be informed of parent-student reunification center locations via the local media and through school resources.

Are schools stockpiling food and water?

The school district takes action to make sure that schools and offices have the appropriate resources available for a short-term event. In the event of a large-scale catastrophic event, WASD would rely on federal and state authorities for assistance.

The WASD shelter-in-place plan is to be used only in the event of a chemical, biohazard, or radiological event. In any one of these situations--which are usually localized (i.e., do not cover a wide area)--persons typically need to remain indoors only a few hours before the hazard literally blows away. After the danger has passed, children and staff members will be free to go to their homes.

There may be other events that would cause people to be housed for longer periods of time in public buildings such as schools--a bomb attack, for instance, which has destroyed homes. In such an event, other community agencies, including the Red Cross, would be responsible for providing food and water. This response would be a shelter, not a shelter-in-place.

In all critical events of this magnitude, the school division becomes part of a larger emergency response team. The county manager and the county crisis response team lead this larger team, whose members have been meeting for over a year and planning the various parts of the response. WASD has been charged with providing shelter for the community.

What if my child is riding a school bus at the time of a crisis?

School bus drivers will be in contact with the Office of Transportation for instructions in the event that a crisis occurs while students are in transport. Bus drivers will be informed to use common sense and not travel toward the crisis location. Parents will be informed of the parent-student reunification center location via the school Global Connect phone system and local media.

Can I pick up my child?

Parents are allowed to pick up their children unless public safety officials have declared a shelter-in-place response, or there is some other reason why access to the facility is restricted. During any emergency, school personnel will maintain as safe and normal environment for children within the school as is possible. School is not automatically canceled in emergency situations. Remember, school may be the safest place for children to be.

Who can pick up my children?

Children will not be released to individuals who are not authorized on the student's emergency care card or who do not have written parent authorization.

The emergency care form is completed by parents and guardians at the start of each school year. Parents and guardians are encouraged to update their emergency information needed throughout the school year.

What about my child's medication?

If your child takes medication regularly, you, the parent, should make sure that the school has an appropriate amount of additional medication on hand. Talk with your child's school nurse for more information.

Are students allowed to have cell phones at school?

Students are allowed to have cell phones at school however they must be turned off as designated in the student handbook. In the event of an emergency, students will be allowed to use their phones to communicate with parents when specified by the principal. It is important to recognize that in an emergency situation; however, cell phone circuits may become overloaded, interfering with public safety's ability to communicate. Student's use of cell phones during an emergency will be appropriately limited.

Can I contact my child?

Parents are asked not to call the school in emergency situations so phone lines can remain accessible for handling the specific situation. Parents will be kept informed via the automatic calling system.

Will children be allowed to view events via live television or radio reports?

In the event of a terrorist attack or other crisis, teachers will be informed as to the appropriate actions to take. Receiving live media coverage in the classroom about an attack or crisis will decided by the district’s Incident Command Team.

How are field trips handled?

The impact of any critical situation on field trips--both district wide and at individual schools--will depend on the specifics of the situation. If the situation warrants, all field trips will be canceled. Cancellations could also include travel to academies, community programs, and other events. There may be circumstances that could require the cancellation of field trips to certain areas. All school buses are equipped with radio communications with the transportation office. If a field trip is under way and must be recalled, buses would be directed to return to the school or a designated safe area. Any such decision will be announced using the automatic calling system. Parents are reminded that WASD retains the right to cancel any field trip for safety reasons.


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