SHELTON SCHOOL DISTRICT
One critical aspect of emergency response is an accountable reunification of students with their parent/guardian in the event of a school crisis or emergency. The Standard Reunification Method provides school safety teams methods for planning, practicing and achieving successful reunification. Site-specific considerations will impact how these practices can be integrated into school safety plans. Successful planning and implementation will also demand partnerships with all responding agencies participating in an emergency response.
The objective of this plan is to help the district develop and implement tangible, on-site and off-site reunification plans. Strengthening partnerships with first responder agencies – police, fire and medical is a key part of the plan. By having district and school personnel build a well-designed plan, it becomes easier to engage the first responders and other key participants in the planning process. Additionally, performing a successful reunification is highly more likely when practice and drills are conducted in advance of an incident. Tabletop exercises and live drills should be scheduled and performed.
Depending on the situation, you may be able to stage the reunification at your school. Logistically, this is the easiest solution since students are already there, secured and supervised and they won't have to be transported anywhere. You may choose this location if the campus is safe and doesn't interfere with a crime scene investigation or fire/rescue operation. You can use indoor staging areas, outdoors, or a combination. Weather could be a factor.
When it is not safe to remain on campus or when parents coming to the school may create more of a hazard, you will want to set up an off-campus reunification. This is more of a challenge since everyone will need to be moved, either by foot or bus to the off-campus location. Securing students and staff while in transit requires extra planning and diligence. You will have to factor in the time it will take bus drivers to report in. The decision for an Off-Campus Reunification needs to be made early in a crisis BEFORE parents start to arrive. Working through the District Office to get a mass phone call sent to families, arrange for buses and assistance with logistics at the Reunification site.
Communicating with Students & Staff
Provide clear instructions about the reunification plan to school staff using the intercom, email, and runners. If outdoors or in a large area you can use a megaphone. Communicating with staff will help calm them and help to manage students more effectively. Prepare students for movement to the reunification area and explain what is being done and why. If boarding buses or walking, prepare students for the Off-Campus Reunification site. When arriving at the reunification site it is important to keep everyone together and prevent students from wandering off. Do not release students to parents while moving students to the Reunification Site.
Communicating with Parents & Guardians
Work with the District Office to assist with parents notifications. Notification needs to be as soon as possible using: Mass phone calls, District & School Websites, Social Media Sites, and Press Releases. Here is a sample message for parents using the phone system.
This is an important message from the Shelton School District. Today is Monday, __________. It is _____ am/pm. The emergency situation at __________ School is over. Please listen carefully to these student-release instructions. Parents, please go to the_______ located at ____________ to pick up your child. (Do not come to the school.) All students, including those who normally ride the bus, will be taken to the _____________ and released to parents and guardians there. Bring your photo identification with you to the ______________. School staff will check your ID against a list of individuals approved to sign out each student. This is for the safety of your child. Thank you for your patience as we work to reunite you with your child.
You will need to designate and manage three distinct Staging areas. It is not uncommon for news of school crisis incidents to result in parents, guardians and loved ones to rush to the school or reunification site to pick up their children. Parents can become frustrated by heavy traffic, parking challenges and uncertainty about how to sign-out their students. You will need to be organized at the reunification site in order to reduce stress and work to provide a safe structure in which to conduct the reunification.
Identify three distinct areas: 1) Parent Check-in Area; 2) Family Waiting Area, and 3) Student Supervision Area. Designate a different person to be in charge of each area and a team to assist in each area. You will need “Runners" to retrieve students from the Student Supervision Area and bring them to the Family Waiting Area to be reunited with their families.
Logistics & Set-up:
District Staff will bring the Reunification Go Kit supplies (page ) and radios to the reunification site. All team members of the reunification site will wear identifying safety vests and Green ID bracelets. School staff will bring the student emergency information. Have an interpreter at the reunification site near the Parent Check-In Area.
Student Supervision Area:
The Student Supervision Area must be out of view from the Parent and Family Areas. This is where you will continue to supervise, secure and care for students until they are each reunited with family. If indoors, you may decide to keep students in classrooms or move them to a central location like a gym, cafeteria, or common area. If outdoors, a fenced area such as a ball field or grandstands may suffice. You may be able to use a bus. Consider how you will meet basic needs such as toilets, warmth, water, etc.
As Parents Arrive:
As parents begin to arrive, calmly give them a Family Reunification Card. This card gives some details on what to expect of the process and provides a mechanism for school staff to match up students with the appropriate parent, guardian or designated emergency contact.
Parent Check-In Area:
At the Parent Check-In Area, have the parent/guardian fill out the Reunification Card. Using the Student Emergency contact List, verify the person requesting the students on the list; check their ID against the list; circle the name on the list. Once verified, ask them to proceed to the Family Waiting Area. They will be reunited with their student. Give the form to a “Staff Runner" who will retrieve the student. School personnel will place the time and initials on the form.
If a family member does not have an ID, work with staff who may know the families to help identify them and get through the process. Do not release a student to anyone who is not authorized on the student's paperwork, even if the student claims to know the person. If they become argumentative or uncooperative, notify law enforcement.
Family Waiting Area:
The Family Waiting Area is where families wait for their children to be picked up during the reunification process. The process takes time and parents may become stressed and impatient. Provide staff who can be calm, understanding, and professional to answer questions and reassure parents. Assign staff who are available and know the families.
Staff Runners will take the bottom portion of the Reunification Card from the parent and go to the staging area to recover the student. The Runner needs to remind the teacher to mark off the student as being released on the student roster.
Release & Reunification:
At the Family Waiting Area, the Runner will call out the name of the adult listed on the Reunification Card. The Runner fills in time of release and initials the bottom portion of the Reunification Card and hands to the accountant for filing. The cards are stored alphabetically by the last name of the student.
The Reunification Process
The materials in the plan provide the fundamentals for a comprehensive plan.
1. Establish a Parent Check-In Location.
2. Deliver the students to the student staging area, beyond the field of vision of parents/guardians. “Greeters" direct parents/guardians to the Parent check-In location, and help them understand the process.
3. Parents/guardians complete Reunification Cards.
4. The procedure allows parents/guardians to self-sort during check-in, streamlining the process.
5. Parents go to the family waiting area for students.
6. Runner recovers student from the student staging area.
7. Controlled lines of sight allow for communication and other issues to be handled with diminished drama or anxiety.
8. Medical or investigative contingencies are anticipated. Successful reunification is based on pre-planning and integrating first responder personnel.
Your plan should have primary, and secondary assignments of each of the incident command roles. You may need to double up some of the roles due to staffing constraints. In the case of an off-site evacuation, these roles will be replicated at the off-site location as the event unfolds. This will result in ICS being established at both the impacted school and the evacuation site. ICS is typically populated by administrative staff.
At the impact site and reunification site law enforcement support may be necessary. Some assignments may include:
- Traffic Control
- Crowd Control
- ID Verification
- Perimeter Control
In the event of criminal activity, LE will typically take the lead in Unified Command. At the secure assembly area, Law enforcement may search students and staff.
Operational Roles and Duties
|Reunification Incident Commander||Defining and coordinating the objective of accountable, easy, reunification of students with parents.|
|Public Information Officer||Communicating with Parents and Press, if appropriate. Coordinating use of mass call or text messages.|
|Social Media Coordinator||Tweeting Parents and Press, if appropriate.|
|Safety Officer||General site observation and safety concern remedy.|
|Liaison Officer||Communicating with Fire, Medical or Law Enforcement|
|Operations||Establish and manage operational staff|
|Greeters||Help coordinate the Parent Lines. Tell parents about the process. Help verify identity of parents without ID.|
|Checkers||Verify ID and custody rights of parents/guardians. Direct Parents to Reunification Location.|
|Runners||Take bottom of Reunification Card to Student staging area, recover student and bring to Reunification Area.|
|Crisis Counselors||Standby unless needed|
|Lead Teacher||Often Teachers or Staff in the Staging Area.|
|Movie Coordinator||At the elementary level, deploying a projector and screen can reduce student stress|
|Planning||May be staffed or the Planning Staff (Scribes) reports to Incident Commander|
|Logistics||May be staffed or the Logistics Staff reports to Incident Commander|
|Stage Hands||Initial setup of the Check In area, the signage, Student Staging Area. Stage Hands may be assigned to Operations as the setup is completed.|
|Finance||May or may not be staffed during a reunification.|
The affected school needs to work through the Transportation Department for transportation to the Reunification Site. The Transportation has staging areas for each school.
Staging the School for Transport
Establish Onsite Incident Command: The first step in staging for transport is establishing School Incident Command at the affected school. Integrating with Unified Command should be a priority.
Classroom Evacuation: Classrooms are individually evacuated to the Secure Assembly Area. During a Police Led Evacuation, students and staff will be asked to keep their hands visible.
If it is a Police Led Evacuation after a Lockdown, each room will be cleared by Law Enforcement personnel. This process may take up to several hours. The teacher should take attendance in the classroom, prior to evacuation.
Special Needs Population: If there is a diverse special needs population, consider evacuating that population last. Once evacuated, this population will demand additional resources.
Secure Assembly Area: At the Secure Assembly Area it is preferable that teachers stay with their students. If some teachers are unable to be at the Secure Assembly Area, doubling up classes with “Partner" teachers is appropriate.
Teachers: Verify attendance.
Accountant: Begins master roster verification.
Law Enforcement: May search students and staff at the assembly area.
Student and Staff Transport: Students and staff board the bus and are transported to the Reunification Site. Buses having audio video systems can be utilized for further accountability by having students face the camera and state their names.
Actions and Considerations
Community Action – Parents will begin to arrive: Parents will be arriving at the impacted school. Often with a Lockdown event, adjoining schools will go into Lockout. Parents may be arriving at those schools as well.
Reunification Site – Mobilize Reunification Team: Contacting the Superintendent and determining the Reunification Site are among the first actions taken. If the site is another school, an early release may be necessary.
Law Enforcement – Support and Investigations: Regardless of the criminal activity, law enforcement support will be necessary at both the impacted school and the reunification site.
Fire and EMS – Casualty Care: If necessary, Fire and EMS will establish Casualty Collection, Triage and Transport areas.
The Reunification Process
Greetings: As parents arrive at the reunification site, Greeters explain the process and distribute Reunification Cards.
Parents fill out card: Parents complete the information requested on the card and begin to self-sort into lines.
Checkers verify ID: Parent custody is verified. The card is torn on the perforation and the bottom is returned to the parent. The top is given to the Accountant.
Reunification Area: At the Reunification Area, parents give the bottom of the card to a Reunifier. The Reunifier goes to the Assembly area to get the student.
Student Reunification: The Reunifier returns the student to their parents asking the student if they feel comfortable leaving with that adult. They then note the time and initial the bottom of the card.
Accountability: The Reunifier delivers the bottom of the card to the Student Assembly Accountant. The Accountant may start sorting the cards.
Staging the Reunification Site
Assembly Area – Students enter out of parental view: Students are transported to the Reunification Site and are then directed to the Student Assembly Area.
Every Situation is Different:
The Reunification process can be very cumbersome and takes time, patience and diligence to implement. This process helps the order to safely reunite each student with their parent, guardian or designated emergency contact. Do you have to use it every time? No. Every emergency is different. The Family Reunification guide is to provide a structure that can be used or modified to fit the circumstances you find yourself in. In a smaller scale situation, such as a bus accident or field trip emergency, you may determine it is reasonable to use a simple sign-out sheet for the handling the documentation piece. In the most severe circumstances, such as a school shooting, the protocol would be very appropriate to fully implement.
REUNIFICATION GO KIT
| REUNIFICATION GO KIT|||||||||| || |
|Parent Check in Banner||1|| |||| |||| |
|Bungee Cords||12|| || || || || |
|Folding Table (6 ft.)||1|| |||| |||| |
|Folding Chairs||4|| || || || || |
|24 count boxes of pens||2|| |||| |||| |
|English Reunification Cards||4000|| || || || || |
|Spanish Reunification Cards||1000|| || || || || |
|Directional Signs||12|| |||| |||| |
|Bull Horn||1|| || || || || |
|Extra bull horn batteries||1|| |||| |||| |
|Flashlights||4|| || || || || |
|Extra flashlight batteries||12|| |||| |||| |
|Safety vests||24|| || || || || |
|Set of laminated alphabet sheets||2|| |||| |||| |
|Set of laminated grade sheets||2|| || || || || |
|Duct tape||2|| || || || || |
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- Each school has a Reunification Go Kit