School safety seems to be at the top of everyone’s list for back to school. With this in mind, a strong “Safety and Security Plan” can help school librarians navigate the confusing dialog, procedures, and processes that might be utilized in an emergency situation. Now is a good time to think about the safety and security procedures school librarians and administrators might use during the school year. Below is a list of helpful resources that I have used to increase my preparedness in case of an accident or emergency. Keep in mind that these recommendations vary by school and location of the school library in relation to the building/campus area.
Having access to documents that outline the school district’s policies and procedures is critical in an emergency situation. Many organizations will use a handbook format as part of a school safety plan. This resource will typically include a “Crisis Plan” and a “Building Exit Plan.” The crisis plan will deal with a situation that places school staff and students in immediate danger. Familiarizing yourself with these resources regularly will help school librarians be better prepared to manage these types of situations. TIP: At the start of school, I take my school safety notebook and insert a checklist in the front. This document shows all the issues related to safety concerns that need to be considered, the most critical element that needs to be addressed, or where to find answers. I also include a third column that shows what my role would be if a situation were to arise.
Let’s face it, school libraries are vulnerable locations within the school. As a space that often has unplanned visitors, meetings, and random activities, the library could be a place of concern in regards to safety. It is essential that school librarians safeguard our facilities by asking non-student and staff visitors to have proper documentation that should be issued by the school office (visitor pass). We must also advocate with colleagues and staff that it is everyone’s essential role to check for these credentials when visitors are on campus or in the building.
Even though your school may practice fire drills and lockdown procedures regularly, because of the openness of the school library, use of large directional signage that illustrates the exit route in the case of an emergency will help reduce confusion. TIP: I now have a large graphic at eye level on our school library exit doors that shows our best safety exit from the building.
- Incident Management (what to report)
- Emergency Response System
- Bloodborne Pathogens
- Biohazards (chemicals and other substances used for processing or other media production activities that need to be monitored)
- Housekeeping Storage and First Aid Supplies
I’m sure that there are many other areas that should be included in this discussion. Post your recommendations in the comment section below. Also, for additional information on this topic, consider reviewing these online articles and resources:
American Library Association. (2017, October 23). Safety and Security in Libraries: Libguide. Retrieved from https://libguides.ala.org/safety-security
Dixon, J. A. (2016, May 24). Safety First: Library Security. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=safety-first-library-security
National Institute of Building Sciences. (2018, May 9). Safe Schools Facilities Checklist. Retrieved from http://www.ncef.org/content/safe-schools-0
United States Department of Labor: Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (2018). OSHA Training Requirements and Resources. Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/dte/library/
Author: Dr. Kevin M. Washburn
School Library Media Specialist: Charlotte NC
Information Literacy Researcher
Children’s Literature Advocate
Adjunct Faculty: UNC Greensboro