AAPS Reunification Team ready to respond in case an emergency requires a school evacuation

AAPS Reunification Team gets training from "I Love You Guys" and Raptor.

Should an emergency force an Ann Arbor Public Schools building to evacuate, a new team of volunteers from across the district are ready to respond and help reconnect students with their families. Last week the district’s reunification team received training and had the chance to walk through a pair of exercises simulating an emergency off-site reunification process.

The training came from the “I Love You Guys” Foundation, whose crisis response and post-crisis reunification programs are used in more than 45,000 schools, districts, organizations and communities around the world, and Raptor Technologies whose visitor management and school safety software is used by 60,000 districts globally including AAPS. “I Love You Guys” was founded by the parents of a Colorado girl who was killed in a school shooting, but their work has developed responses for schools to any type of emergency.

When AAPS asked for volunteers to join the reunification team earlier this year the response was overwhelmingly positive, with more staff interested than expected. The team includes principals, teachers, counselors, special education staff, translators, facilities team members, members of the IT Department and more. The district has also created a trailer with all of the necessary gear to quickly transform spaces in the community into a reunification site.

Lawton Principal Rose Marie Callahan says hopefully the team will never be needed, but it’s important to be prepared to calmly respond in case of an emergency. “I feel like so many people came forward because they care,” Callahan says. “Staff from every area in AAPS chose to be part of that training and to be on the reunification team because they want to be helpful in their community. Those of us who have been through a traumatic event or helped someone else during those times know that people ask, “What can I do?” This training gave us all a purpose in our community, having a purpose during a time of suffering helps those in need and begins the healing process for everyone.”

Lawton Principal Rose Marie Callahan in red vest and members of the AAPS Reunification team talk with "I Love You Guys" trainer.

The training provided AAPS team, staff from the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, other area schools and Washtenaw County law enforcement with both the Standard Response Protocol and Standard Reunification Method developed by “I Love You Guys.” The Standard Response Protocol includes:

•Lockdowns when there is an immediate threat to a building

•Lockouts when there is a threat outside the building such as a bank robbery in the area

•Evacuate which can be used during a lockdown if safe to do so

•Shelter in Place which is used for dangerous weather

•Hold where students stay inside their classroom while staff respond to things like a medical emergency.

“I Love You Guys” instructor Chris Zimmerman says these five options in the Standard Response Protocol can replace cumbersome school safety manuals that may not include the flexibility staff need when there is an actual emergency. “It really allows our leaders within schools and school districts to make decisions effectively and to move forward and communicate that with the staff and community and students,” Zimmerman says. “It was so impressive how engaged these volunteer administrators and leaders are from district and school level. It really shows how much they care about their students and how they want their students to be safe every day when they walk into the building.”  

Katelyn Warnock from Raptor Technologies provided the training on the Raptor Alert app that can help school staff in the reunification process. She says having a plan provides confidence for staff and community. “Raptor’s role in this training is ensuring that first and foremost that people understand the plan, what are the mechanics of the reunification process, how does this go, then ultimately how does software manifest that process and how does it make it faster and more accurate throughout that endeavor,” Warnock says.

Bryant Principal Jamar Humphrey says it’s important for families to know we have a plan in place in the event of an emergency. He says the drills were a critical part of the training, “To actually go through the progressions, go through the live motions, create some muscle memory, so it gives me the opportunity to really put into practice what I learned and what I received from the presenters, so I really really enjoyed not only getting the information, but getting to apply that information in real time practice,” Humphrey says.

Executive Director of Student and School Safety Liz Margolis says the reunification plan is just one part of the processes and procedures we have as the safety of our students and staff is our number one priority. She says bringing together the “I Love You Guys” Foundation and Raptor Technologies gave AAPS staff a well rounded training. Margolis says the next steps include reviewing the training and drills to see steps that can be taken to better prepare the reunification team and the creation of a video to let families know a little more about what to expect if there is an emergency at their child’s school that requires an evacuation.

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