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Newton school system alerts parents to emergency plan

COVINGTON --The Newton County School System recently alerted parents to its Emergency Management Plan.

The plan, which is available at www.newtoncountyschools.org, dictates parents, staff members and students working together to ensure a safe and secure environment.

When a school enters an emergency response mode, no one but emergency personnel may enter or leave the building until the "all clear" signal is given by the school's principal, after consultation and approval from emergency response personnel, according to the plan.

NCSS notes that even though parents will be concerned for their children during an emergency, the school staff must ensure the safety of all students and staff members, collaborating with emergency responders and account for students before reunification or dismissal can begin.

Emergency responders also have expressed concerns that a rush of parents to a school can block access for them, creating a dangerous situation, according to NCSS.

The plan notes that various drills, such as fire, tornado and intruder drills, are practiced throughout the year so those in the building are prepared to respond quickly and appropriately to any emergency. Additionally, the plan notes that administrators use plain language, rather than codes, to alert fellow staff, students and visitors and instruct them how to respond to avoid any confusion and prompt an orderly response.

NCSS noted in its plan that depending on the nature of the incident, schools will implement one of the following emergency drills:

-- Evacuation. If it is unsafe for students and staff members to remain inside the building, schools will conduct an evacuation drill. If necessary, they will relocate students and staff members to another safe location and follow the directions given by public safety officials.

-- Lockdown. If there is an intruder or threat of violence on or near the campus, schools will conduct a lockdown drill. All students and staff members will remain behind locked doors and then follow the directions given by public safety officials.

-- Shelter-in-Place. If there is a threat of severe weather or of hazardous materials -- biological or chemical-- outside the school, they will conduct a shelter-in-place drill. All students and staff members will move to safe locations inside the building -- interior classrooms and away from windows and doors -- and then follow the directions given by public safety officials.

Schools have emergency first-aid kits. Also, schools are equipped with emergency lighting systems, fire extinguishers, flashlights, emergency alert radios and two-way radios.

If an incident occurs, the school staff's first priority will be to ensure that all students are safe and under adult supervision before alerting parents.

Afterward, affected parents will receive a call from the school system's automated telephone system about how to respond. Parents are asked to make sure their contact information is up to date at their schools.

The superintendent's office also will immediately notify the news media and update information on the school system's website.

NCSS said parents can help manage a crisis situation in the following ways:

-- 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 not 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. Have appropriate identification, such as a driver's license or passport when picking up your child at school or an alternate site. Check with the school officials before removing your child from campus.