Emergency plans are best made before they are needed

COVINGTON — The Georgia Emergency Management Agency is encouraging parents and students as the new school year begins to give some thought to preparing for emergencies before they happen.

According to a recent survey, GEMA found that only 45 percent of the polled parents were aware of the protocol for an emergency at their children’s school.

GEMA Public Information Officer Lisa Janak Newman said every school system in Georgia is mandated to have a safety plan on file. The best thing parents can do is familiarize themselves with the plan and discuss it with their children.

“Stress that in the event of an emergency, the child should remain calm and follow their teacher’s instructions. Discussing these things in advance will make them less stressed,” she said.

At the beginning of the year, parents should make sure they understand the school’s notification procedures and ensure that their student’s emergency contact information is current.

According to the Newton County School System’s Emergency Management Plan, to prepare for an emergency, schools will practice drills for such situations as fire, tornado or intruder and will follow those previously practiced scenarios in the event of a real emergency. The actions to be taken during these drills include evacuation, lockdown or shelter in place.

For instance, if it is unsafe for students and staff to remain in the building, as in the case of a fire, they will leave the building and move to a safe location at the direction of public safety professionals. If there is an intruder or threat of violence on or near the campus, the school will be locked and students and staff will remain behind locked doors. In the event of severe weather or exposure to hazardous materials, students and faculty will move to a safe location within the building.

Newton County schools are supplied with emergency first aid kits, and the schools are equipped with emergency lighting systems, fire extinguishers, flashlights, emergency alert radios and two-way radios.

Parents and news media will be immediately notified should an emergency situation arise at school and up-to-date information will be given on the school system’s web site; however, the first priority will be the safety of the students.

A list of suggestions of what parents should do in the event of an emergency is offered as part of the NCSS Emergency Management Plan:

• Remain calm. Do your best to cooperate with school and public safety officials.

• Keep roads clear. Be aware that traffic or parking congestion could hamper access of public safety vehicles.

• Keep phone lines open. Be aware that excessive phone calls could jam the phone system and hamper emergency communications. This includes contacting your child by text or phone call.

• Be patient. Students will be released to their parents, guardians or emergency contact persons as soon as possible.

• Have appropriate identification. Appropriate identification includes driver’s license, passport, etc. when picking up your child at school or at an alternate site. Check with the school officials before removing your child from campus.

The Newton County School System’s Emergency Management Plan is available at www.newtoncountyschools.org.

For more information on emergency preparedness, go to www.ready.ga.gov, where each family can create an online profile and receive instructions on assembling household ready kits, emergency contact information for each member of the family and more.