School Safety FAQS
The safety and well-being of students and staff is our highest priority.
In partnership with the Niagara Regional Police Service, the Niagara Catholic District School Board has established emergency response plans to ensure student and staff safety at our schools. These plans include the steps students and staff will take in the event of an emergency at a school, a parent/guardian communication plan, and an evacuation plan.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are responses to frequently asked topics regarding emergency preparedness in schools.
How do I know if something is happening at my child’s school?
Niagara Catholic believes parents and guardians have a right to timely information when an internal or external incident affects their child(ren)’s school(s).
Parents can expect the following:
A short email notifying parents of the situation and advising of planned updates (when possible)
A text to alert parents to check their email for an important message
These will be sent by the Board account, so school staff can focus on the safety and well-being of students. Once this has been sent, we will share urgent information on a school/board website and social media. Police or other emergency agencies or local municipalities may also share this information.
We understand the information may not come as quickly as a parent might like, but we are committed to only providing accurate information, and may send multiple updates that don’t provide a lot of detail just to assure parents they are being informed.
Parents/guardians are reminded to only rely on these trusted methods for communication. Anything else you read or hear online is not official and may not be accurate.
We also ask parents not to call or go to a school during these times as staff cannot engage with parents. Through our central staff, parents will be kept informed as often as possible.
All Niagara Catholic schools and facilities have an emergency response plan. A school's emergency response plan is based on established Board procedures, created in partnership with the Niagara Regional Police Service. The specifics of each plan differ according to the unique circumstances for each location and are outlined on the Emergency Response Plan posters displayed throughout the school. Students and staff are encouraged to review the emergency response plan for their school.
A school’s response to a situation will differ based on the specifics of that situation. The flexibility of the plan is key to the success of the response.
Terms and definitions:
Shelter in place is used for external issues affecting a school – this could be environmental, such as a chemical spill or a toxic fire. Students would be kept inside during these times but may move freely throughout the school and normal activities continue. A shelter in place at a school is often part of a broader community order and may extend beyond the school day if the threat remains. Anyone who is outside will be asked to enter the school building and remain inside until the threat is lifted.
Hold and secure is used when there is an external threat such as a person reporting someone with a weapon in the school community, or a police chase. Very similar to a shelter in place, students may move freely around the school during a hold and secure if it is considered safe and normal activities continue. They will also be kept indoors. Police may urge people to stay out of a specific area if a threat is reported but may not put a shelter place order for the community into action. Anyone who is outside will be asked to enter the school building and remain inside until the threat is lifted. A hold-and-secure may extend beyond the school day.
Lockdown is the used when there is a threat within a school it is unsafe to evacuate. In these cases, students are kept inside their classes, away from windows and doors, and may be otherwise sheltered. In these instances, students may only use their mobile phones to call 911. Calls to family or others in the community may impact the ability to keep students safe and may cause undue panic if the threat turns out to be unfounded.
Evacuations take place when there is a reported or known threat, such as a bomb threat, gas leak or fire. Students would be taken to a marshaling location in the Emergency Response Plan for safety.
Staff regularly review what to do in such situations and the follow a checklist to ensure the health and safety of everyone.
Just as schools practice fire drills, drills for these other situations are also practiced in an age-appropriate manner. The Board is required to have two lockdown drills during the school year to ensure students know what to do in case of an emergency.
Child Pick Up
In any of these circumstances, the Board has a moral and legal obligation to keep students and staff safe until the appropriate agency determines there is no longer a threat to health or safety. We understand parents’ desire to have their children with them, but allowing anyone to enter or exit the building during an emergency could expose the students and staff inside the school to further danger.
Parents/guardians will be informed and reunited with their children as soon as it is deemed safe to do so and will be made aware of any alternate pickup location. If students remain at school, classes/instruction may continue in emergency situations, because school may be the safest place for everyone to be.