In my role as a general manager for afterschool programs located in 20 public schools, the safety of our children is constantly at the forefront of our staffing and planning conversations.
Our programs are part of a larger nonprofit organization, which has provided video training for employees on the topic of active shooters. While helpful, there is a difference between the lessons that training provides and the circumstances that we confront in our afterschool programs. The in-house training, for example, only addressed the actions of adults who are responsible for their own safety – not adults who are responsible for the safety of 60-100 children whose ambulatory skills, verbal skills and (lack of) speed add an entirely new dimension to the concept of run/hide/fight.
Additionally, our programs share the space where we provide care. We have access to the school cafeterias for five hours a day, which limits our ability to build/hang/create rooms, accesses, barriers, security systems or any of the other things that could allow us to create safer atmospheres for the children. Finally, we are accessible to the public; during the time we are in the schools, there are also other afterschool activities occurring, meaning that there are people in the building who are not our staff, our children or our parents.
Enter the Maryland Family Network (MFN) and Child Care Aware® of America (CCAoA), who provide insight and direction for center providers, family providers and school-age providers on what we can do to keep our children safe should an active shooter situation arise. In addition to shifting our mindset from “what can we do?” to “we can do this,” the active shooter training provided real-life scenarios with guidance on actions to take, and hands-on activities to show us how to do it.
The training was a good mix of lecture, discussion and videos with ample opportunity to ask questions and receive concrete solutions to the situations raised. The trainers brought child care experience as well as fire and police experience, making the training exactly what we needed.
In addition to reviewing and improving our current emergency plans, I plan — with the assistance of MFN — to bring CCAoA to my program to provide this valuable training to all my program directors! Kudos to MFN for recognizing the need and providing the opportunity for the training to come to Maryland.