Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is emergency preparedness?
  2. How can I stay informed?
  3. How will my child's school handle an emergency situation?
  4. How can I see the security plan for my child's school?
  5. What is lockdown?
  6. In the event of a terrorist attack or other emergency situation, will FCPS go into lockdown?
  7. What will FCPS do if an act of war or other emergency situation occurs while students are in school?
  8. What is shelter-in-place?
  9. What measures are being taken for students in trailers?
  10. What if a child is exposed to a biological or chemical contaminant?
  11. What is basic decontamination?
  12. Why are you keeping children from their parents?
  13. What is a parent reunification site?
  14. Why can't I be given the evacuation and parent reunification locations ahead of time?
  15. Are schools stockpiling food and water?
  16. Why aren't the schools storing three days of water and food for each child as is being recommended for homes?
  17. What if my child is riding a school bus at the time of a crisis?
  18. Can I pick up my child?
  19. Who can pick up my children?
  20. What about my child's medication?
  21. Are students allowed to have cell phones at school?
  22. Can I contact my child?
  23. What will schools do if there's a smallpox outbreak?
  24. How will my children know what to do in the event of a terrorist attack?
  25. Will children be allowed to view events via live television or radio reports?
  26. How are field trips handled

What is emergency preparedness? (back to top)

FCPS 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, communications, and evacuation plans.

How can I stay informed? (back to top)

FCPS broadcasts emergency messages, when necessary, using a number of media. General emergency messages, early and late school openings and closings can be found on the school system public web home page (link) and on cable Channel 21.Emergency messages are also sent by e-mail to all subscribers of FCPS Keep In Touch. Emergency messages are transmitted to local media, and parents are encouraged to listen to radio or television.

How will my child's school handle an emergency situation? (back to top)

All Fairfax County Public Schools facilities have an emergency preparedness plan. The specifics of each plan differ for each location. The response to each situation will differ based on the specifics of that situation. The flexibility of the plan is key to the success of the response. In general, each plan involves the designation of a crisis management team; development of evacuation, shelter-in-place, and lockdown procedures; preparation of a portable critical response kit that contains 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 FCPS school plans have been reviewed within the last twelve months, and school crisis teams have received training. While the school specific plan is exempt from release to the public per the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, the template that schools use to construct their plan is available at http://www.fcps.edu/fts/safety-security/publications/cmw.pdf. (PDF document)

How can I see the security plan for my child's school? (back to top)

FCPS does not release this type of specific information, pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. This law provides specific exclusions to the type of information that can be released (2.2-3705). The Crisis Management Workbook, which serves as the template that schools use to construct their own site-specific plans, is available at http://www.fcps.edu/fts/safety-security/publications/cmw.pdf. (PDF document)

What is lockdown? (back to top)

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, if an evacuation is not possible. Faculty members are responsible for accounting for students and ensuring that no one leaves the safe area. School personnel will also secure building entrances, ensuring that no unauthorized individuals leave or enter the building. Securing the building by monitoring and locking all exterior doors and bringing students into the building from fields/playgrounds may also be done 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. This response is referred to as Secure the Building.

In the event of a terrorist attack or other emergency situation, will FCPS go into lockdown? (back to top)

The specific actions taken by FCPS in any emergency situation-both divisionwide 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.

What will FCPS do if an act of war or other emergency situation occurs while students are in school? (back to top)

The specific actions taken by FCPS in any emergency situation-both divisionwide 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.

What is shelter-in-place? (back to top)

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, including those in trailers. Building personnel would close all windows and doors and shut down the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC). 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 water and food is needed for shelter-in-place. Any event of a magnitude that required such stockpiling would require that we all take our direction from the federal emergency management officials. Parents are concerned that, during a shelter-in-place activity, they couldn't 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 system personnel have developed a plan that uses the best possible method for 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. FCPS personnel are merely endeavoring to keep children safe for parents until the parents can pick them up.

What measures are being taken for students in trailers? (back to top)

If an accident or attack that created contaminated air occurred in the nearby area, everyone would be brought into the school building, including those in trailers.

What if a child is exposed to a biological or chemical contaminant? (back to top)

In the event of an exposure--and the child is showing obvious symptoms of such--staff members on hand would conduct basic decontamination.

What is basic decontamination? (back to top)

In the event that your child shows symptoms of exposure, school staff members would conduct basic decontamination. The child would be separated from other children and directed to wash thoroughly with soap and water. If possible, school personnel would make sure that the child showered and would provide alternative clothing. The exposed clothing would be put in plastic bags, and the bags would be sealed.

Removing a contaminated person's clothing effectively removes in excess of 80 percent of contaminants from the person; the alternative would be to do nothing and thereby cause the person to suffer pain and possible serious injury.

Why are you keeping children from their parents? (back to top)

FCPS does not intend to keep children from their parents if a crisis occurs during school hours or school 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 center location via the school system emergency messaging system and local media.

What is a parent reunification site? (back to top)

If public safety officials require that a school building be evacuated, students and staff members will be safely transported by bus to a designated parent-student reunification center. Parents will be informed of the reunification location via the school system emergency messaging system and local media. At the reunification center, students will be released to their parents upon presentation of proper identification.

Why can't I be given the evacuation and parent reunification locations ahead of time? (back to top)

FCPS does not release this type of specific information, pursuant to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. This law provides specific exclusions to the type of information that can be released (2.2-3705). Also, during emergency situations, circumstances could arise that might force changes to previously designated locations. Parents will be informed of parent-student reunification center locations via the local media and through school resources.

Are schools stockpiling food and water? (back to top)

The school system is taking action to make sure that schools and offices have the appropriate resources available for a short-term event. In the event of a large-scale catastrophic event, FCPS would rely on federal and state authorities for assistance.

The U.S. secretary of homeland security and the secretary of education have hailed the FCPS critical response plan as one of the best school plans in the country. This plan is being used as a model by school divisions nationwide. There has been no request by state, local, or federal crisis experts that we stockpile food or water.

The FCPS shelter-in-place plan is to be used only in the event of a chemical, biohazard, or radiological event. In any one of these situations--which are usually localized (i.e., do not cover a wide area)--persons typically need to remain indoors only a few hours before the hazard literally blows away. After the danger has passed, children and staff members will be free to go to their homes.

There may be other events that would cause people to be housed for longer periods of time in public buildings such as schools--a bomb attack, for instance, which has destroyed homes. In such an event, other community agencies, including the Red Cross, would be responsible for providing food and water. This response would be a shelter, not a shelter-in-place.

In all critical events of this magnitude, the school division becomes part of a larger emergency response team. The county manager and the county crisis response team lead this larger team, whose members have been meeting for over a year and planning the various parts of the response. FCPS has been charged with providing transportation and shelter for the community. Other groups are charged with providing food and water.

Why aren't the schools storing three days of water and food for each child as is being recommended for homes? (back to top)

Most of the envisioned emergency situations would be localized short-term events and would not call for long-term supplies. It is unreasonable to expect our facilities to stockpile three days worth of food and water inside each facility for each person. Likewise, shopping malls and other businesses are not expected to perform this type of long-term shelter.

What if my child is riding a school bus at the time of a crisis? (back to top)

School bus drivers will be in contact with the Office of Transportation 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 center location via the school system emergency messaging system and local media.

Can I pick up my child? (back to top)

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

Who can pick up my children? (back to top)

Children will not be released to individuals who are not authorized on the student's emergency care card or who do not have written parent authorization.

The emergency care form is completed by parents and guardians at the start of each school year. Parents and guardians are encouraged to update the emergency care card (PDF document) as needed throughout the school year.

Friends and neighbors may sign a child or children out with written permission from a parent or parents. Both (or all) parents have to give permission in writing for the sign out and pickup. Schools prefer to have written permission on the day that a child's pickup will change, but schools will also keep written permission on file. School offices will keep the permission notes--usually they will attach them to the emergency care card(s) of those involved. Schools will also ask for identification when the child is released to the one(s) mentioned in the permission note. It is advisable to communicate with the teacher as well, perhaps with a copy of the signed written note.

What about my child's medication? (back to top)

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

Are students allowed to have cell phones at school? (back to top)

All students are allowed to have cell phones at school. Students are not allowed to have them turned on during the school day. In the event of an emergency, students will be allowed to use their phones to communicate with parents when specified by the principal. It is important to recognize that in an emergency situation, however, cell phone circuits may become overloaded, interfering with public safety's ability to communicate. Student's use of cell phones during an emergency will be appropriately limited. More information on cell phone use in schools is found in Reg. 2601 (PDF document).

Can I contact my child? (back to top)

Parents are asked not to call the school in emergency situations so phone lines can remain accessible for handling the specific situation. Parents will be kept informed via the FCPS emergency messaging system.

What will schools do if there's a smallpox outbreak? (back to top)

FCPS is working with the county government and the health department on the communitywide response for mass vaccination. Complete details are found under Bioterrorism and Smallpox on this web site.

How will my children know what to do in the event of a terrorist attack? (back to top)

Inform your children that, if a crisis occurs while they are in school, their teacher will provide them with appropriate instructions. More information is available at the terrorism response resource page at this site.

Parents are also 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.

Will children be allowed to view events via live television or radio reports? (back to top)

In the event of a terrorist attack or other crisis, teachers will be informed as to the appropriate actions to take. Receiving live media coverage in the classroom about an attack or crisis will be left up to the teacher's discretion. Appropriate measures will be taken depending on the age of the students.

How are field trips handled? (back to top)

The impact of any critical situation on field trips--both divisionwide and at individual schools--will depend on the specifics of the situation. If the situation warrants, all field trips will be canceled. Cancellations could also include travel to academies, community programs, and other events. There may be circumstances that could require the cancellation of field trips to certain areas. All school buses are equipped with radio communications with the transportation 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. Any such decision will be announced using the FCPS emergency messaging system. Parents are reminded that FCPS retains the right to cancel any field trip for safety reasons and is not responsible for any financial obligations parents may have.

Resources

Webpage Curator

Nancy Moy
nhmoy@fcps.edu

Last Updated

March 7, 2014