Almost every day there’s a story about school or workplace violence. I can’t help but feel shaken up every time I hear of one. I work in the public space and my kids are in a public space all day long (not to mention my husband’s job, too). Although there’s virtually no way for one person to predict when something is going to happen, there are some things you can do to keep yourself safer at work and improve your work environment.
- Carry your phone everywhere — Once the school I work at went on lockdown and I was inside the intensive kindergarten class. As I was sitting there with students, I thought that depending on how long the lockdown would last, I would not be able to notify anyone that I was okay and safe. Nor would I have been able to call for help. Luckily it was only 30 minutes long and the threat was not imminent. Now I keep my cell with me at all times so that in case there is an emergency, I can reach the outside world if need be.
- Wear your ID — I went through a phase when I didn’t want to wear my ID because I hated how the lanyard felt around my neck. I decided that I was known around the school so an ID wasn’t needed. But I ended up realizing that I needed to wear my ID so that in case law enforcement entered the school, I could prove my identity easily. If you don’t like your current lanyard or clip, check out etsy and search for a cute new one. Having your ID on at all times is vital to your safety in case of an emergency.
- Learn your closest exit and plan your departure — When I traveled between buildings, I missed regular fire drills so I didn’t always know which way to leave my space. If something had happened and I would have needed to evacuate quickly, I would have been frozen in place. Find your closest exit route and plan your departure.
- Make sure your school has locked double doors and your speech office/room can be locked — Virtually every school I’ve worked at has locked door to enter the school premises and then another locked door to go from the vestibule to enter into the school itself. The first door prevents access to the school while the second door prevents access to the students. If that procedure is not be followed at your school, consider asking your supervisor about improving security. Can your room’s door be locked? Lock the door frequently and practice closing and locking it during drills.
- Be alert and aware — When you are walking into and out of the school building, it’s so easy to turn on “auto pilot” as you leave your car. Be aware of your surroundings. One time there was an unusual person walking around the parking lot. The principal took care of it, but what if that person was hiding behind a car? When I worked in the city of Chicago, I knew there were SLPs that were robbed twice as they were leaving their schools. Take off the ear buds and put your phone away as you walk in and around the school building. You never know who you will encounter.
I hope we all never have to experience the worse-case scenario, but I think speech paths can take precautionary measures to protect ourselves. Stay safe!