Schools updating safety plan

March 4, 2019

NEEDLES — Potential for catastrophe natural or human-caused, planning for avoidance, response if confronted and restorative care after any incident are described in the latest version of a 133-page school safety plan accepted by the school board on Feb. 19.

By provision of the state education code and various legislation the Needles Unified School District Board of Trustees is charged with directing the plan, officially known as the “Emergency / Critical Incident Procedure Guide” be updated at least once a year and circulated to personnel at all school sites. The document provides for approval, as well, by the county fire and sheriff departments serving Needles residents. This year there appear to be 22 revisions, all entered by Jim Rolls, direct of educational services for the district.

An introduction talks about the burden placed on schools these days to prepare for emergencies previously thought to be outside the arena of public education. The plan is intended as a guide to cope with extraordinary emergency situations but reminds of the impossibility of addressing all conceivable circumstances; calling for the judicious employment of common sense.

A requirement stated in that introduction that, “All staff members must be thoroughly familiar with the contents of this plan” prompted some common-sense questioning by board Clerk Robert Smith. “I read through it twice,” he told his colleagues during the monthly meeting. “It’s a lot to comprehend.” His questions centered on staff familiarity with the plan; how often it was reviewed or practiced; and what approaches should be taken to familiarize temporary employees, such as substitute teachers, with the protocols.

Other observations raised by Rolls, Superintendent Mary McNeil Ph.D. and others in the meeting involved the tendencies for people to forget specific directions in stressful situations, a comprehensible chain of command with specific responsibilities for dealing with complex events, and strategies for simplifying the various steps in situational response including using new technology, such as an emergency response application for cellular telephones.

Questions and answers are to be explored during future meetings of the board.

The plan can be viewed on the school district web site at https://www.needlesusd.org/