We have been helping districts with tabletop exercises for years. Currently, schools are returning to in-person teaching and learning. The stress and concern related to the pandemic continues to affect students, staff, and their families. The education community is very aware of the potential mental health issues that accompany this ongoing stress and concern. Fortunately, the community is taking steps to improve early recognition and intervention for those needing special care. As we return to the classroom, it is important for us to recognize that school safety risks are also impacted by this concern. Preparedness is more important than ever. Where do we start? It begins with training of the school safety team and other staff regarding their roles and responsibilities during an emergency at school.
What are tabletop exercises?
Tabletop exercises allow a school safety team to put their safety training to a test in a safe and relatively stress-free setting. Tabletop exercises (TTX) are discussion-based exercises regarding a hypothetical, simulated emergency scenario. The TTX is intended to improve general awareness and validate plans and procedures to enhance conceptual understanding of roles and responsibilities, identify potential tactics and responses, uncover gaps and areas for improvement, and achieve changes in perceptions.
So how do you start?
The following steps can supercharge a tabletop exercise assumes that two-way radios are a part of a school’s emergency communication plan.
- Choose a school-based emergency incident and write a 2 to 3 sentence description
- Gather the participants (with their radios) and explain the exercise process
- Send the person who will be in charge of the incident (the Incident Commander) out of the room with their radio
- Display the scenario on a screen to the participants in the room
- Ask one person to summarize the scenario and use the radio to report it to the Incident Commander (IC)
- The IC will use that information to size up the situation, form a response plan, and begin assigning response tasks to the participants by using the radio to communicate. Example: direct a specific person to call 911. Continue this for 60-90 seconds or until the IC runs out of task assignments
- Bring the IC back into the room and conduct a “hotwash” to discuss how effective the radio communications were: what went well with the task assignments and the order of the assignments, and what could be improved.
Finally, during the hotwash, discussions of who should do what and when are valuable to help people understand and apply their training regarding their roles and responsibilities during a particular emergency event. Using the radio to “work” the scenario brings a level of realism to the tabletop discussions that helps to supercharge the learning.
Want to discuss further? Contact us!
During the COVID-19 pandemic, our customers have been working tirelessly to adhere to the CDC guidelines to provide a safe and healthy environment at schools. Mitigating virus transmissions has been the focal point of many school district’s COVID-19 Hazard Assessment Plans. From what we have learned, masks, social distancing, frequent disinfecting, and hand sanitizing measures have all been implemented throughout many school districts in Colorado.
SchoolSAFE’s solution is training and radio-based. As more and more schools open their doors to in-person learning, we have had requests for radio disinfecting “best practices.” For levity, we have even had a customer ask if they could dunk their entire radio in bleach. Yes, this would certainly be effective in eliminating any viruses on the radio. But this could render the radio completely useless as the electronics could corrode between the metal and the circuit board. This can lead to radio transmission issues. Please do not dunk your radio in any form of liquid. Additionally, some disinfecting chemicals can compromise the materials of the radio.
So, the radio manufacturers with which we have partnered have provided guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting two-way radios. Below is a resource for your schools and district to improve radio hygiene by safely cleaning and disinfecting the radio. And, you can also find a print out for your schools here.
Please contact us with any questions, we are always here to help.
District 27J is now a SchoolSAFE Certified Ready School. Read our latest case study about their experience in improving interoperable communications and school safety.
District 27J Case Study_Final
Here at SchoolSAFE, we pride ourselves in our ability to empower community partnerships. Throughout our trainings, we watch school safety teams and public safety personnel work together to improve their communications during an emergency. An added bonus during these trainings occurs when ideas are shared between the professional first responders and those in charge at the school because improvements are made. Many times, within the discussions for improvement include the necessity of funding to accomplish what was talked about. With the current climate in school safety, there are many opportunities to apply for funding. Improvements to schools in their communications efforts, controlled access, interoperability, and safety personnel are all included in the multiple grants currently open for application. Here in Colorado, for example, the SAFER Grant is available to provide hardware, software, and training for interoperable communications. Throughout the country, we have seen a number of other open grants. Some are listed below. Never hesitate to apply, it is worth the effort to aim to get funding to improve your school(s) and district safety measures.
-School security disbursement grant
-Capitalized equipment grant
-Physical security of buildings
-School safety improvements