The preparation starts with the school's Sacred Heart Emergency Response Team, 30 to 35 adults who meet once a month and keep in touch with neighboring schools, the Atherton Police Department and the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.
The school's emergency protocols include plans for reunifying families, communicating with parents, and connecting siblings on campus in an emergency.
Communication with parents takes place through the school's website, emails and texts, but not social media such as Twitter and Facebook because it's hard to keep those communications private, Ms. Rakoczy said. The school is also planning a campus-wide public address system that could work with other communications, she said.
Important to being prepared, Ms. Rakoczy said, is "knowing your community," consistency of drills and training, and "pushing always to improve and (finding) what we can we do better."
The school also prioritizes communicating with parents so that in an emergency they know where to go and "they have trust if they cannot get to their child immediately ... that they're going to be taken care of."
"We have gotten it down to a science," she said.
Parents are informed in advance when a drill will take place and what will be done. "We want them to be well-informed, so they can continue the conversation at home," Ms. Rakoczy said.
Students are given age-appropriate information with the aim of having them be "confident in their responsibilities" during an emergency, she said.
The school is also prepared to serve as a shelter in a disaster, with an emergency trailer filled with blankets, water and other supplies to last 24 to 72 hours.
"We are constantly training as a faculty and staff," Ms. Rakoczy said. Teachers learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and recently held a drill where they erected pop-up tents, staged their emergency trailer and practiced using fire extinguishers.
The school also plans to have backup laptop and cellphone batteries, and a form of communication that could be used by campus leadership if phones are out.
Teachers and staff have a cellphone app loaded with emergency resources. "It's a library of information and it's at everybody's fingertips," Ms. Rakoczy said.
Students are not supposed to use their cellphones on campus, but they may carry them, and school officials realize that in an emergency they will probably be used, she said.
"This is the world we're in ... kids are constantly connected," Ms. Rakoczy said. "We see the benefits of that technology."
"We're constantly looking at what we can do, what can we do better," she said, "so that we can ensure our adult community feels prepared."
Students realize the possibility of a school shooter is real. "I think there is a fair amount of understanding that, like technology, this is part of their world," she said. So, the school works to "prepare them as best we can," she said.
"You don't want them to think about this 24-7," Ms. Rakoczy said.
"(Student) safety and our well-being are our paramount obligation," she said. However, she added, "we know that in event of an actual emergency there's only so much you can do."
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