PHILIPSBURG:— The official ‘Safety and Emergency Response Guidelines for Schools’ (SERG) was dispatched this week by The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport to all schools as one policy within the larger MECYS Resilience Plan. The Resilience plan was created after Hurricane Irma to ensure that the education sector will be more effectively prepared to respond to and recover from disasters and crises.
Developed in collaboration with various school boards, community stakeholders like the Fire Department and Red Cross and with technical support from UNICEF Netherlands, the SERG lays out a number of quality standards and procedures for safety preparedness and emergency response within St. Maarten’s schools. Although schools are not traditional response organizations, when an emergency occurs, school personnel and students must respond immediately. In addition to natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and hurricanes, a school’s environment is also relatively hazard and threat-prone. Threats such as gang violence or technological hazards such as an explosions or gas leaks may occur within a school at any time. This is why it is imperative that in each educational institution on St. Maarten, its staff and students, are fully aware of the steps involved in dealing effectively with an emergency and are always prepared to respond accordingly, contact the relevant authorities and take safety measures when necessary.
Each school will be required, in addition to developing their own personalized School Safety and Emergency Plan, to establish a school Safety and Emergency Team (SET). The SET is responsible for establishing a warning system in the school, creating awareness of safety within the school, keeping updated contact lists for medical support professionals and ensuring that first aid equipment is available and maintained.
The SERG was also created to foster an improved culture of safety in schools as well as act as the first step towards the development of a larger comprehensive school safety plan that will take into account long term issues related to building standards, disaster risk reduction education and sustainable approaches to sector development.
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