In a few weeks, Pennsylvania students will be heading back to school or off to college, and for many, this may be the first in-person experience in over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to ensure kids and teenagers understand how to stay safe from weather hazards in a different or new environment.
Here are some safety tips and reminders for parents to share with their kids as a new school year begins.
In the Classroom – School Safety
School administrators are responsible for planning for weather hazards. It is also up to parents to help kids learn how to stay safe when dangerous weather occurs. If your student is attending school in-person or remotely (or both), learning what to do BEFORE disaster strikes will help keep them safe.
- Monitor Forecasts – Pay attention to the weather forecast from a trusted source. Knowing when snow, severe weather, heavy rain, and excessive cold and heat are in the forecast can help you and your kids prepare, from dressing properly and staying hydrated to determining if their routine plans need to change for the day. Teach your kids what action to take when dangerous weather arrives. You can find up-to-date, local weather information from the National Weather Service by typing your zip code in the search.
- Get Alerts – Make sure you’re signed up for severe weather alerts at home and school. Third-party vendors and some schools offer special weather alerts. Sign up and stay informed. You can join the AlertPA notification system by CodeRED for emergency and weather related alerts, health notifications, and other updates from commonwealth and federal agencies.
- Know the Plan – Schools have plans for weather hazards and emergencies. Ask to go over the plan so you know when your kids may be delayed, held, or when events may be canceled, plus where your kid may be evacuated due a weather event or fire. Most importantly, find out where and how you will reunite. Be sure your kid knows the plan too.
On Campus – College Safety
College students have a lot thrown at them in a short period of time. But it is important to make weather safety and awareness a part of their education at the start of each semester.
- Location and Alerts – Going to college sometimes means that students are living in, or traveling to, a different environment. National Weather Service warnings are issued by geographic area, and many alert systems are triggered by county. Know the town and county of your home and school to sign up for life-saving alerts. Then, students AND parents should sign up for alerts from, for example, the National Weather Service, or see if the college offers the service – many do!
- Get the Plan – Many schools have a Safety and Emergency Response Guide that summarizes the institution’s protocol for what the campus community should do in the event of an emergency situation (e.g., weather event, fire, active shooter, etc.). This guide is a good starting point for students and their parents to review to gain an understanding of what to do in these situations.
A few extra tips about on-campus safety:
- Emergency Phones/Callboxes – e.g., Bluelight phones (strategically placed around campus) connect directly to campus police, know the location of phones and how to use them.
- LiveSafe APP (or similar) – many colleges utilize an APP for smartphones allowing students to have a “panic button” on their phones, call campus police with a touch of a button and/or track the student via GPS (on phone) when activated. These APPs connect directly to campus police and are monitored.
- Campus Police – Know campus police phone number and have it on speed dial.
- Campus/Text Alerts – Most colleges, in an effort to better disseminate emergency information, offer an emergency text messaging system that will alert students, parents, faculty and staff of a campus emergency or weather alert. This system is a mass notification system that can alert you with a notification to your smart phone and email, as well as posting to University social media accounts. This service is optional and usually requires a student (or parents) to sign-up. There is no advertising or non-emergency alerts sent to you, but you must be registered to receive alerts. All members of the campus community are strongly urged to sign up to receive these alerts.
Check out these resources for more back to school safety information.