Ask anyone in the South what to do when the tornado sirens ring out, and they could probably recite a list of procedures to go through: Get inside or underground, go to the bottom floor of the building (a basement if possible), get away from all windows, and go to the centermost part of the building. Most of us have heard the warnings all of our lives, and school faculty and staff are no exception. We know the drills, and we know the procedures by heart. So when it comes to improving safety plans and procedures for severe weather, we sometimes get stuck on our own script.
The nSide platform is the ideal planning tool to make sure severe weather plans are organized in advance for before, during, and after the event. There are many features within the platform that can help make implementation of severe weather plans as efficient as possible.
Severe weather plans are often included as a section of a school’s Emergency Operations Plans. These are often standard plans that are primarily designed for response to an immediate threat. However, there are many things that can be done before a threat exists that could greatly enhance not only response time, but also prevention of injury and efficient recovery from any damage.
- 360 photos: As part of the mapping process, nSide team members take 360 photos inside and outside of your campuses. These photos can be used by first responders to locate specific locations on the map. However, it can also be used as crucial before photos in the context of potential damage to any structures.
- Map school safety zones: Sometimes safety zones on campus are limited to space available, such as hallways and bathrooms during a tornado warning. It is important to investigate further to make sure safety zones are identified and vetted before severe weather hits. Partnering with local first responders or fire departments may help with this task. Along with hazards from high winds, severe weather can often come with flash flooding. It is important to verify that the safety zone is not also a flood zone. In addition to safety zones on campus, don’t forget to consider safety zones for buses that are on the road. When editing your nSide map, make sure to mark these safety zones in case of a weather emergency.
- Communication: Planning methods of communication before an emergency will prevent confusion and panic during an event. Mass communication apps, including nSide|Lockdown, should be kept up-to-date and tested regularly. In case of power outage or other logistical issues with mass communication, each hallway or building should have wireless radios and weather radios available, as well as a designated emergency coordinator to use these tools.
- Update maps and contacts: It is essential to update your nSide map anytime there is a personnel change or change to campus structures or features. During a severe weather emergency, providing first responders with accurate teacher and classroom information as well as contact information for your safety team is extra important. This can only be done if your maps and school information are updated regularly.
- Update your EOP: Like the map, your EOP must be updated regularly in the nSide platform. This ensures that all the latest emergency plans and documents are easily accessible to the appropriate staff members.
- Drills: The number and types of severe weather drills you will conduct on campus will depend on your geographic location and state requirements. However, the more often an emergency plan can be practiced, the better a real emergency is likely to be handled. With every drill that is conducted on campus, don’t forget to log those drills in the nSide platform for your records. It is also important to note any issues that arise during drills or potential changes that may need to be made. Communicate with your faculty and staff what went well and what needs to be improved with each drill conducted.
The warning has been issued. A severe weather event is now imminent. This is when all priorities shift to simply staying safe. Teachers and students will move to their safety zones, and communication should become the top priority of administrators. During a severe weather situation, there are a few things you can do on the nSide platform to ensure a smooth response.
- Implement your EOP: Have your EOP documents pulled up on the nSide platform so that you can assist anyone who needs information about where to go or what to do. Use your nSide map to direct administrators or other support staff to locations that may have limited communication or simply need extra support in an emergency. Make sure you have a plan in place to communicate emergency plans with any substitute teachers or guests on campus.
- Monitor campus cameras to identify any issues: With nSide|Live, you can pull up your video wall on the platform to scan the campus to make sure there are no students or staff who are not in a safe location. If you are able to carry a mobile device with you to a safe location, nSide|Live can allow you to view multiple locations at once to see any safety issues in real time to keep first responders updated if they need to be called.
- Communicate with Faculty and Staff: Although nSide|Lockdown is primarily used as a lockdown notification for active shooter, fire, or medical situations, it can also be used as a mass communication tool for authorized users. For more information on how to use nSide|Lockdown for mass communication purposes, please visit https://nside.io/lockdown-app/ or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
After the severe weather event has passed, assess the campus for damage before any students are released from their safety zones. If there is damage or injury, first responders should be called, and the following can be done to help in the recovery process.
- Assess the damage: Using your nSide map, direct available administrators and staff to different locations around campus to assess any damage, potential injuries, or safety concerns. If issues are found, keep your map open for first responders to use in recovery efforts.
- Reunification: If there is significant damage, you will need to implement the reunification plan in your EOP. It helps to have reunification zones marked clearly on your nSide map so that staff can help direct students and guardians to the correct locations as quickly and safely as possible.
- Recovery and Reassessment: Once everyone is safe, then recovery can begin. If structures have suffered damage, have your 360 photos available for insurance and reporting purposes. Take time to discuss the severe weather event with your faculty and staff: What worked well? What needs to be changed in the future? What can be done to improve emergency plans? Reassess your EOP and document any changes in the nSide platform.
- Reassure your school community: Having all your maps, drills, documents, and assessments in one place provides a quick way to reassure your community that you are doing everything you can to keep students safe.