WDMCS Safety & Emergency Management Plan: Prepare, Respond, Recover
The safety and well-being of your children are our priority at the West Des Moines Community Schools. We are committed to supporting safe and welcoming learning environments where your child can connect, explore, and learn.
The district has a comprehensive emergency management plan focused on planning, preparedness, response, and recovery.
For several important reasons, many specific details about response plans are not shared publicly. However, we feel it is important for families to have an overview of our plan and how they can help during emergencies.
Our safety, emergency, and crisis committee developed the district’s emergency management plan in partnership with the West Des Moines Police Department, West Des Moines Fire Department, West Des Moines Emergency Management Services, Westcom Emergency Communications, and several local community partners. In addition, the district consulted with the state law enforcement, Polk County Emergency Management, state and federal Homeland Security and Emergency Management, representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Iowa Department of Education.
These partnerships continue on a regular basis through the Crisis Management Leadership Summit, which the West Des Moines Police Department and West Des Moines Community Schools Superintendent Lisa Remy, Ed.D., established for schools and communities from the metro area.
Each school in our district has a safety, emergency, and crisis team that meets regularly to review plans, train staff, and coordinate emergency drills.
In addition to planning, we conduct emergency drills throughout the school year so that students and staff are aware of emergency protocols and procedures. Each school in our district performs tornado, lockdown, and fire drills.
Our district has also conducted large-scale drills and tabletop exercises in partnership with police, fire, and emergency response services to test and improve our plans.
The West Des Moines Community Schools has organized, systematic procedures for responding to a wide variety of emergencies, from severe weather to threats.
The district and each school have crisis response teams that coordinate the response process in each building. These teams work with local emergency management and other community services based on the emergency.
We will use our emergency notification system to alert families of emergency situations as soon as accurate information is available. To receive a notification call, make sure you have an Infinite Campus account and provide up-to-date contact information. If you do not have an account, please call your school office. Information may also be provided through email, text message, local media outlets, social media, the district’s website, and the district’s hotline. We also provide ongoing communication throughout an emergency as needed.
A few quick tips for families about what they can do during an emergency or crisis are available below.
We may ask families to pick up their children in a formal, controlled release—or a reunification process. This may occur at your child’s school building or another building in the community, depending on the emergency situation. This provides a more predictable and less chaotic process for all involved. The district or school will communicate information, instructions, and the reunification location at the time of the emergency through our notification system. Learn more about the reunification process below.
Recovering from an emergency or crisis is as critical as planning, preparing, and responding. We want to assist students, staff, and their families in the healing process and to restore the educational operations in schools.
The type and breadth of recovery activities needed will vary based on the size and scope of the incident. This may range from repairing a building to providing counselors for students and staff.
It also involves reviewing and evaluating the lessons learned to make improvements.
What Families Should Do During an Emergency
During an emergency, it is a natural instinct for families to want to rush to their child.
We, at the West Des Moines Community Schools, want to reassure you that we share the same instinct—to protect and safeguard your children. Our organized, systematic procedures and plans guide our response to a wide range of crisis situations.
Here are a few ways you can help us effectively respond to a crisis:
- Remain calm, follow procedures, and cooperate with school and public safety officials.
- Please do not go to the school. Traffic may block emergency responders from getting to the scene or transporting injured students or staff to emergency medical facilities.
- Please do not call the school. It is essential to keep phone lines open so school officials can make outgoing emergency calls.
- Remain close to the phone or computer. We will send accurate information and instructions to your contact information in Infinite Campus.
- Tune in to local television or radio stations.
- Check the district website for updates, particularly for school closings.
- Check district social media sites for possible updates. These include Facebook and Twitter (@WDMCS).
- Understand that the district may require families to pick up their children at a reunification site other than their school. In this case, please bring your photo ID. The district will communicate the location of the reunification site through the channel’s provided above.
The reunification process is a formalized, controlled release of students to their custodial parents or guardians. This provides a predictable and organized method of reunifying children with their families after an emergency.
A controlled release may not be a typical end-of-school-day event, and it may occur at a different location than your child’s school due to the circumstances of the emergency situation.
If the reunification is at a different building, we will communicate the alternate location and instructions at the time of the emergency. Learn how we communicate during an emergency.
The following will help familiarize you with the reunification process in advance of an emergency.
You will need to:
- Bring a photo ID. This will streamline things during reunification.
- Be patient. Reunification is a process that protects the safety of the student and provides for an accountable change of custody from the school to a recognized custodial parent or guardian.
- Go to the Reunification “Check-In” area and form lines based on the first letter of the student’s last name.
- Fill out a reunification card. In the case of multiple students being reunified, a separate card for each student needs to be completed. This card and your identification will be used to confirm custody and help ensure proper and document reunification with your child.
In some cases, parents may be advised that a law enforcement investigation is underway and that interviews are necessary. In some cases, parents may be pulled aside for emergency or medical information.
When a parent can’t immediately go to the reunification site, students will only be released to individuals previously identified as a student’s emergency contact. Otherwise, the school staff will remain with students until they can be picked up.