Emergency Contingencies at Island Park

  • Photo of David

    Dear Families,

    In recognition of the recent safety threats at the high and middle schools, I thought it important to share a few words regarding how we prepare for emergency contingencies as well as offer a few safety reminders. 

    We help students prepare for emergency situations each month by practicing either a fire, earthquake or lockdown drill.  Drills are conducted in a sensitive, non-frightening manner to teach behaviors that maximize safety. Students are told that lockdown drills are conducted to address what to do if something unsafe is outside of the school.  We never communicate graphic or scary scenarios to students.  

    We work closely with district central office and Mercer Island Police personnel to review procedures and learn up-to-date protocols and procedures. For example, two summers ago the entire district, under the auspices of the police department, conducted and de-constructed a district-wide evacuation drill.  This past summer, a district team attended a regional training with local emergency response agencies. We are constantly reviewing emergency procedures and related issues at administrative and school-level meetings.

    In the event that we are unable to re-enter the school (fire or earthquake) or had to evacuate the campus, the district would immediately send out a communication notifying you of the situation and detail next steps.  The location for reunification would be part of that message, as well as any other pertinent information. Typically, at this point, the fire or police departments are involved and directing operations.

    One of the things we learned from the middle school situation of January 3 was the importance of making sure parents/guardians update their emergency contact information to include as many trusted and reliable contacts as possible.  At unification sites, children are only released to those who are on the emergency contact list.  To update your list, you can go to your Skyward Family Access account via the district website. 

    The safety of our students is our number one priority. For that reason, I want to highlight some other safety tips you might want to talk to your children about to help them have a safe school experience.

    1. Talk with your children about the route they should take and who they should walk with when they are walking/biking here on Mercer Island, be it to or from school or to the park on a Saturday morning;

    2. Remind your children to be aware of and attentive to their surroundings. So, those walking should not listen to music so loudly that they cannot hear an approaching car or stranger. Likewise, older children must limit distractions when driving for the sake of themselves and everyone else;

    3. Children should immediately tell a trusted adult if they see someone or something that makes them feel scared/uncomfortable. If on one of our campuses or at a school event, your child could speak to any staff member or administrator. If in the community, your child could tell you, a trusted adult, or call the police;

    4. If approached by a stranger, a child should not interact with that person and should run in the opposite direction, ideally toward people;

    5. If a stranger touches or attempts to grab a child, the child should yell and scream “Who Are You?!” or “Help!” Doing this will alert anyone within hearing distance that the child does not know the person or is in need of help;
    6. Encourage your child to stay in well-supervised areas and to use the “buddy system” when going to community events (e.g., if you child is walking home from a basketball practice, it is safer if your child does so with another child or a trusted adult. If going to one of our high school sporting events, it is better if your child stays with a group or at least one other person);

    7. Remind your child that it is never acceptable for anyone to hurt them or touch them inappropriately. Though “stranger danger” is real, statistically children are more likely to be hurt by people they know.  

    The above is not an exhaustive list of ways our children can help ensure their own safety. But, hopefully, it is a reminder to us all that children play pivotal roles in their own safety. Thank you for talking to your son or daughter about acceptable and not acceptable safety behavior at school.

    I appreciate all that you do to promote safety and security of our children. Please let us know if you have any questions.

    David Hoffman