On 5/15/2019 at 1:30 p.m., the Norfolk Public Schools Safety Team partnered with the Lincoln Montessori students and their families to perform an evacuation and reunification safety drill. Although school buildings regularly practice drills to swiftly evacuate their building (for example, fire drills), they do not usually perform a reunification drill. The Safety Team felt it was time to drill the school district’s reunification procedures and make sure they were clear, concise, and effective.
A reunification would occur when the school building has been evacuated and is determined to no longer be safe to return students and staff to that building. Students and their families would then be reunited at an alternate location. Some examples might include a fire, a gas leak, or many other reasons.
For the drill practice scenario on 5/15, the school district evacuated Lincoln Montessori K-4 students to the First United Methodist Church. After the evacuation procedures were complete, the K-2 students and staff returned back to Montessori to finish their school day and normal dismissal procedures. The 3rd and 4th grade students (and their K-2 Montessori siblings) were asked to remain at the church and practice a reunification drill with the NPS Reunification Team. Parents were notified that the drill would be occurring ahead of time, and given an option to decline participation if needed. At approximately 2:00 p.m., parents arrived at the Methodist Church and began the process of reuniting with their student(s) from Montessori.
The drill was conducted, feedback was received, notes for improvement were taken, and all students were safely returned to their parents. Michael Hart, NPS Safety Team Lead, told us, “Student safety is always our top priority. We have worked hard behind the scenes to develop clear and concise plans, and as a district we appreciate the opportunity to perform a drill of the reunification process. We also realize that by doing this here today, at an alternate location, we might have caused some inconvenience for some of our school families. We appreciate their patience and understanding. Our objective today was to make sure we are prepared and can provide a safe, calm, and efficient environment if an evacuation and reunification is ever needed at Norfolk Public Schools.”
“We will continue practicing all forms of safety drills with students in our buildings. Preparedness training for students, and NPS staff, is vital. It improves our reaction time, promotes calm in a potential emergency situation, and ensures our processes are effective. We will continue to improve and enhance our procedures to ensure the safest environment possible for all our students. Today’s drill with Montessori studenEts gave us some great insight and I do expect that we will perform a reunification drill again in the future at other school buildings.” said Dr. Thompson, Superintendent of Norfolk Public Schools.
What should parents and guardians know about an evacuation/reunification?
NPS has procedures in place to ensure that all students are evacuated safely and everyone is accounted for when an evacuation to an alternate site is needed.
The reunification process will happen at a secondary location and will ensure that students are kept safe until an approved adult arrives to the site to connect with them. The adult will be asked to show a photo ID to ensure they are an approved adult that can pick up that student. Families are encouraged to make sure their school contacts are up to date and that approved adults know the verification requirement for a valid photo ID.
In the event that a school has to be evacuated and a reunification is necessary, parents would be notified by multiple Norfolk Public Schools communication channels that families have established with the school district, such as robocalls, texts, or emails. Information would also be shared and updated regularly, as applicable, with the local media and social media to keep everyone informed.
Norfolk Public Schools appreciates the support of the First United Methodist Church during this process. Their help and hospitality as we have practiced our drills has been outstanding!