Keeping A County Safe
Clear and concise. Easy to learn and revise.
These characteristics of the Sheboygan Falls School District’s safety plan for emergency situations immediately impressed the district’s School Resource Officer Doug Hall when he came to Sheboygan Falls three years ago.
“They’ve been ahead of the curve in having a plan that’s very easy to work with and a process whereby we are always updating and revising it,” Hall said.
Hall and members of the district’s safety committee meet quarterly to review the plan and staff training procedures, revising when necessary. Staff are trained regularly in “table top” exercises that focus on what if scenarios that can apply to many emergency situations. They are tested on their knowledge by occasional unannounced visits by the county’s director of emergency management, Steve Steinhardt, who tries to gain access to a building through a door other than the main one. During fire drills, a building principal will sometimes “hide” a student to see if the student’s teacher realizes he or she is not there.
Hall is not the only one impressed by the plan. Steinhardt, who assists the district in other types of safety training, calls it a “stellar plan.” And he and Hall are using it as a model for other districts as they work to create countywide cooperation among public school districts on emergency and safety matters.
“We are looking at a countywide model that everyone can adopt so we’re all working off the same page,” Steinhardt explained. “We want to make sure all the schools in the county are working off the same plan.”
Officials in the Howards Grove School District took the Sheboygan Falls safety plan and adopted it with slight changes to fit their individual circumstances. Other districts are looking at adopting the plan as well.
The only district not involved in the countywide initiative is the Sheboygan Area School District, which as the county’s largest school district has different issues that the smaller districts do not.
The goal would be to create a county school safety team that would meet annually and have representatives from all the school districts. The team could discuss issues common to all the districts and collaborate on training.
One of the things that Hall likes most about the Sheboygan Falls safety plan is how simply and clearly it is written. There are no acronyms and codes red or yellow and color-coded copies of the plan protocols are within easy reach in every classroom.
He is also impressed by how committed the staff are to safety training.
“I was amazed at this district when we do drills how efficient they are,” he said. “The staff are not afraid to do drills.”
Even though Sheboygan Falls is not an urban center, it is “not immune” from emergency situations, he added.
“We’re not sticking our heads in the sand,” Hall said.
Steinhardt said he appreciates the way Sheboygan Falls officials take time to keep up with training and updating the plan in contrast to some places where a plan is created and then never looked at again.
“It’s our kids,” he said. “We need a plan that’s not just in writing but that’s practiced.”