Emergency Preparedness & The Big Five

  • When tragedy strikes, especially at or near schools, we are all affected. Children may ask tough questions about why these things happen, and find resilience in seeing goodwill and generosity of communities around us. But what if an emergency struck us here, at our own schools? What would happen? The first five minutes are crucial, as that is the average response time of first responders. MPCSD is prepared to deal with traumatic events, following San Mateo County Office of Education's Coalition for Safe Schools and Communities Big Five guidelines.


    MPCSD is fortunate to be partnering with San Mateo County and our local Menlo Park and Atherton Police and Fire to ensure seamless coordination and response should an incident occur. After the Sandy Hook disaster in Newton, Connecticut, San Mateo County developed the Big Five guidelines to create a common language and procedures around any type of incident. When our schools implement any of the Big Five actions, other agencies including Police and Fire Departments will know and use the same language to respond to our schools’ actions. Read The Big Five Community Packet to understand what Shelter in Place; Drop, Cover, and Hold On; Secure Campus; Lockdown/Barricade; and Evacuation mean. The recent smoky air we responded to was an example of Shelter in Place.


    If an incident occurs at one of our campuses, please remember that your child’s safety is MPCSD’s number one priority. No matter what event we are responding to, keeping kids safe is always the goal. When an incident occurs, site administrators - the Principal or Assistant Principal - take the lead and make the call about which level of The Big Five to implement. For incidents that require first responders, once the responders arrive on site, they will take command of the situation. When the incident has been resolved, students will be reunified with their parents or guardians. Remember that children can only be released to people listed on their emergency contact forms. If you need to update your child’s emergency form, please contact your school office.


    So how will you know what’s going on? What can you expect? All incidents are different and decisions will be made based on evolving situations at the site. For issues that affect the whole district, like the smoky air, email communication will be sent to all district parents. For issues affecting just one campus, that are more imminent in nature, only parents of children at that campus will be notified once the situation or crisis has been stabilized. For critical situations in which immediate parent notification is required, parents will receive calls, texts, and emails through our Schoolmessenger system.


    Please be aware that there are times when parents will not be allowed to enter campus during an incident. Your children will be kept safe until the incident is resolved and reunification occurs. You will be notified when this is the case. Parents who are on campus at the time of an incident will follow the same guidelines and instructions from site administrators or law enforcement that students and staff are following.


    When an incident is happening, we understand that parents will be concerned and anxious to be reunified with their children. Safety and reunification is also MPCSD’s main goal. Please be aware that sometimes the reunification process can take hours. Your patience will help site administrators, and first responders if necessary, reunite you with your child sooner.


    It is important to note that during an incident, school is most likely the safest place for your child to be. Schools are built to the strictest codes, and emergency response is thoroughly planned, rehearsed, and coordinated so that when and if the time comes to respond to an emergency, your child is in the safest hands possible. Our schools may also become shelters available to the county in the event of incidents that require shelters to be opened.


    We are pleased to partner with our district families in ensuring that - while we all hope it will never happen - during an emergency, we will follow The Big Five, keep children safe, and facilitate happy reunions once the emergency has passed. Familiarizing yourself with The Big Five will help you know what to expect.


    MPCSD Emergency Planning Key Points:


    • Each campus has in place individualized school emergency plans based on State/Federal/County standards.

    • All staff and students are trained on common county wide emergency language known as the  The Big Five  with clear protocols and procedures.

    • Sites and District have an Incident Command Structure in place with specific roles and responsibilities during an emergency.

    • District and schools work closely with local Fire and Police departments on emergency protocols.

    • Schools run emergency drills on a regular basis for fire, earthquake, lock down, shelter in place, and secure campus.

    • Administrative staff receive regular training in emergency preparedness and work as a team to refine procedures and processes.

    • Each classroom has an emergency bag and each school has an emergency storage container with needed supplies and material including food and water.


    • Schools are regularly inspected to ensure safety compliance.

    • All school have Fire Alarm systems that are monitored 24 hours/365 days. Fire sprinkler systems are installed in all two story buildings/classrooms in the District.

    • Communication systems in place to send SMS, email, and phone messages to student parents in emergencies.  Radio communication in place between schools.