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Norwalk Public Schools Safety Briefing

Norwalk Public Schools Safety Briefing
Posted on 01/23/2014
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Since the start of the 2013/14 school year, the City of Norwalk and Norwalk Public Schools have actively moved forward on initiatives to ensure that Norwalk schools are prepared in the event of an emergency. 

With wide participation from key departments throughout the City, members of Norwalk’s District School Safety Committee have worked in close collaboration to identify and address potential safety and security concerns within the school system. Committee members include Mayor Harry Rilling, Fire Chief Denis McCarthy, Police Chief Tom Kulhawik and School Superintendent Manuel Rivera, as well as others from the Norwalk Police Department, Fire Department and Office of Emergency Management, the Board of Education, and school administrators, teachers, union leaders and central office staff.

The following high-priority projects have been completed:

Detailed School Assessments: The Norwalk Police Department conducted detailed site assessments of all public schools.A list of common challenges were identified that will operate as a roadmap for the district overall, as well as individual site reports that have been reviewed with school principals.  

Door Numbering System: Based on established best practices, Norwalk Public Schools implemented a system to number and label all exterior doors. This will assist responders and staff in quickly identifying and arriving to specific locations on school properties. 

Emergency Response Guide: The Norwalk Fire Department Office of Emergency Management created an easy-to follow Emergency Response Guide for use by Norwalk Public School staff at all schools. The Guide outlines four standard response categories: Lockdown, Lockout, Shelter or Evacuate. Staff and students have specific directions for how to respond to each. The Guide also contains school specific information and maps. Parents and guardians will also receive a letter outlining the response system categories so that they can reinforce the safety lessons at home, and that also helps them understand their role in any emergency.

School Safety Team Drills: Individual school safety teams have been working on the specific needs for their facilities, and have been working with representatives from the District School Safety Committee to conduct drills that include procedures outlined in the new Emergency Procedures Guide.

Enhanced Communications: In addition to the District’s “School Messenger” automated calling system, a text messaging system has been added. New social media sites on Facebook and Twitter have been activated for the district, and upgrades are underway to the NPS website. The school district’s new communications director is now part of the District Safety team.

Initiatives in Progress

Key priorities for 2014 include these key projects:

Door Lock Replacement: With funds allocated by the City and supplemented by a State of Connecticut school safety grant, 1100 new locks will be installed in classrooms and offices, as well as common areas such as cafeterias and gymnasiums.

Reunification Plan: To address the challenges that can come in reuniting families after an incident, the Committee is working on a Reunification Plan that will be added to the Emergency Procedures Guide.

District-Wide Tabletop Exercise and Reunification Drill: Using a professional development session in early spring, administrators from all schools will participate in a tabletop exercise to walk through a response scenario. A reunification drill will also be scheduled that reviews steps for a school evacuation to and dismissal from a neighboring school.

School safety and security will always be a top priority in Norwalk, and everyone has a role to play, including staff, students, and families.