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Safety & Security FAQs

Safety & Security Frequently Asked Questions

What is emergency preparedness?

NHSD has taken steps to ensure your child’s safety while in school. Each school has developed a crisis response plan. Emergency preparedness is basically preparing the steps you will take in the event of an emergency, such as contact information, communication and evacuation plans.

How can I stay informed?

NHSD utilizes a variety of communication outlets including mass notification phone system, website, E-link, social media and district app. Families are encourage to subscribe, follow or like all district communication outlets to best stay informed. Emergency messages also are transmitted to the local media.

How will my child’s school handle an emergency situation?

All NHSD facilities have an emergency preparedness plan. The response to each situation will differ based on the specifics of that situation. Flexibility of the plan is key to the success of the response. In general, each plan involves the designation of a building level safety team, development of evacuation, shelter-in-place, and lock down procedures; preparation of a portable critical response kits that contain key information and supplies; designation of one or more appropriate evacuation sites; provisions for training personnel and updating the plan; checklists for dealing with specific types of incidents; and resources for help before, during and after an event. All NHSD school plans have been reviewed within the last 12 months and school crisis teams have received training.

What is lockdown?

An emergency may prevent the safe evacuation of a school building and require steps to isolate students and faculty from danger by instituting a school lockdown. In an interior lockdown situation, all students are kept in classrooms or other designated locations that are away from the danger. Faculty members are responsible for accounting for students and ensuring that no one leaves the safe areas. School personnel also will secure building entrances, ensuring that no unauthorized individuals leave or enter the building. Exterior lockdown procedures also may be used to ensure the safety of students when an incident occurs in the community. Parents are permitted access to the building and to their children if it is safe for them to do so.

How will NHSD respond in an emergency situation?

The specific actions taken by NHSD in any emergency situation districtwide and at individual schools will depend on the specifics of the situation. Any action taken would depend on several factors, including the level of threat and the advice of local, state and federal agencies. The safety of students and staff members will be the primary concern in any decision. All staff in all schools are trained to execute a lockdown or shelter-in-place drill.

What is shelter-in-place?

Shelter-in-place is a short-term solution to a short-term problem. If an accident or attack that created contaminated air occurred in the nearby area, everyone would be brought indoors. Building personnel would close all windows and doors and shut down the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. This would create a neutral pressure in the building, meaning the contaminated air would not be drawn into the building. Shelter-in-place is a short-term measure (measured in minutes or hours, not days) designed to use a facility and its indoor atmosphere to temporarily separate people from a hazardous outdoor environment. The alternative would be to evacuate into a hazardous situation, thereby causing harm to all involved.

No stockpiling of food is needed for shelter-in-place. Each building does have a supply of water for emergency use. Any event of a magnitude that required such stockpiling would require that we all take direction from the Federal Emergency Management Agency officials. Parents are concerned that during a shelter-in-place activity they could not pick up their children and might be separated from them for long periods of time. That will not happen. If the air outside the school is safe for parents to breathe, it is safe for their children to breathe. School building personnel have developed a plan that uses the best possible method of ensuring the safety of students and staff members in this type of crisis. Remember, it is not the school system’s intention to keep children from their parents. NHSD personnel are merely endeavoring to keep children safe until the parents are able to pick them up.


Would parents be able to get their children in a crisis?

NHSD does not intend to keep children from their parents if a crisis occurs during school hours or activities. It is the school system’s intent to make sure that children are safe inside their schools until such a time that the threat has been reduced. Parents will be informed of the parent-student reunification location via the district's communication outlets and local media.

What is a parent reunification site?

If public safety officials require that a school building be evacuated, students and staff members will be safely moved or transported by bus to a designated reunification site. Parents will be informed of the parent-student reunification location via district communication outlets. At the reunification site, students will be released to their parents upon presentation of proper identification.


What if my child is riding a school bus at the time of a crisis?

School bus drivers will be in contact with the transportation office for instructions in the event that a crisis occurs while students are in transport. Bus drivers will be informed to use common sense and not travel toward the crisis location. Parents will be informed of the parent-student reunification location via the district's communication outlets and local media.


Can I pick up my child?

Parents may pick up their children unless public safety officials have declared shelter-in-place response, or there is some other reason why access to the facility is restricted. During any emergency, school personnel will maintain a safe and normal environment for children within the schools as possible. School is not automatically canceled in emergency situations. Remember, in the event of a crisis or emergency, school may be the safest place for children.


Who can pick up my child?

Children will not be released to individuals who are not authorized on the students’ emergency care card or who do not have written parent authorization. Friends and neighbors may sign a child or children out with written parent permission from a parent or parents. Schools prefer to have written permission on the day that a child’s pickup will change but will keep written permission on file. School offices will keep the permission notes and will ask for identification when the child is released to the individual(s) mentioned in the permission note. It is advisable to communicate with the teacher as well, perhaps with a copy of the permission.


What about my child’s medication?

If your child takes medication regularly, you should make sure that the school has an appropriate amount of additional medication on hand. Talk with the school nurse for more information.


Can I contact my child during an emergency?

Parents are asked not to call the school in emergency situations so the phone lines can remain accessible for handling the specific situation. Parents will be kept informed via district communication outlets and local media.


How will my children know what to do in the event of an emergency?

Inform your children that, if a crisis occurs while they are in school, their teacher will provide them with appropriate instructions. More information would be available via district communication outlets. Parents are encouraged to prepare a family disaster plan and practice it so that everyone will remember what to do if a disaster does occur. Everyone in the household, including children, should play a part in the family’s response and recovery efforts. Teach your children how to recognize danger signals. Make sure your children know what smoke detectors, fire alarms and local community warning systems (horns, sirens) sound like.


How are field trips handled?

The impact of any critical situation on field trips, both districtwide and at individual schools, will depend upon the specifics of the situation. If the situation warrants, all field trips will be canceled. Cancelations could also include travel to academies, community programs and other events. There may be circumstances that could require the cancelation of field trips to certain areas. All school buses are equipped with radio communication to the First Student office. If a field trip is under way and must be recalled, buses would be directed to return to the school or a designated safe area.

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North Hills School District
135 Sixth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15229
Phone: 412-318-1000 Fax: 412-318-1084
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