Emergency Procedures: Frequently Asked Questions
In creating our Civil Defence Emergency Procedures, the Board of Trustees and Principal of Sumner School reflected on the lessons we learned about our procedures during the earthquakes of September 2010, February 2011, and June 2011 and considered the most up to date science on seismic activity and tsunami modelling. As part of this process, we are grateful to the following scientists for doing an informal review of our procedures and suggesting that we were going through this in a thorough and appropriate manner: Mr Stuart Fraser, Joint Centre for Disaster Research, Massey University; Ms Helen Grant, ECan; Dr Graham Leonard, GNS Science; Dr William Reece, GNS Science; and Dr Tom Wilson, Geology, University of Canterbury. In addition, we appreciated the input of parents and community members in providing us with their thoughts about how to improve our Procedures.
What is the risk of a tsunami reaching Sumner School?
According to the information we have received from NIWA, there is an extremely small chance of a tsunami reaching Sumner School.
In the event of long range tsunami eg one coming from South America, the school would have 10-15 hours notification. That would give ample time for parents to collect children from school.
In the event of a mid-range tsunami, there would be little warning. In this case an immediate evacuation to Van Asch would take place.
Please note: to learn more about the tsunami risk to Sumner School, a copy of the presentation NIWA gave to our parent community in May 2011, is available at the Office.
Why evacuate to Van Asch Deaf School?
The models available show that Sumner School is just outside the likely inundation area for a tsunami. Evacuating to Van Asch School ensures that the children are well outside the inundation zone shown in these models.
Will there be time to evacuate to Van Asch?
According to the information we have received the most likely tsunami threat would come from Kaikoura or an unknown fault off the Wellington coast. It would take approximately 15-45 minutes for the first wave to reach Sumner. We were able to evacuate the whole school to Van Asch in 11 minutes during our last tsunami drill. The key being the further we get away from the school, the further outside the likely inundation area we will be.
Who makes the decision to evacuate?
The principal is responsible for making the decision to evacuate to Van Asch or to stay at school. If the principal is not on site, the responsibility falls to the Associate Principal. If the Associate Principal is not available a designated member of the Leadership Team will make the decision.
When will the school be evacuated to Van Asch?
In the event of a local or regional tsunami there would be very little warning. Determining the intensity or duration of a big shake can be very difficult during the event and is also subjective to the individual. Also a tsunami event some distance offshore may not present itself with the same intensity as an earthquake such as we have experienced in 2010/11.
The experts’ advice in this case is to follow the ‘natural warning signs.’ These include any magnitude earthquake lasting more than 30 seconds, sudden rise or fall of the sea level, or unusual sounds or wave formations coming in from the sea.
When would the school inform parents of the evacuation?
Parents would be contacted as soon as possible via the emergency text system. This is likely to occur when everyone is safely assembled at Van Asch.
Is there a tsunami siren in Sumner?
Yes. There is a tsunami warning siren in Sumner.
How do the teachers know when to evacuate to Van Asch Deaf School?
The signal for a full school evacuation is a continuous blast on the fog horn. No fog horn blast means no emergency evacuation to Van Asch.
What happens in a situation where there is a large earthquake but the school is not evacuated to Van Asch?
In the event of a large earthquake that requires teachers and children to evacuate classrooms, the school will meet in the designated assembly point on the field. A decision will then be made to close the school and parents and caregivers will be informed via the emergency text system.
What happens if my child cannot be collected immediately?
All children will remain under the care of the staff until they are collected.
What if the weather conditions are putting the children at risk?
Sumner School has a good supply of emergency provisions. In the first instance these will be used to keep the children dry and warm. If children are required to be outside for an extended length of time and the risk of hypothermia develops, a visual inspection will take place of the new hall, and if deemed safe, the remaining children and teachers will be moved into the hall foyer.
Are children allowed to use cell phones in emergency situations?
Currently the children are allowed to bring cell phones to school but they are not permitted to use them during the school day. In an emergency situation they would be permitted to make contact with their parents. Please note: children need to be assured that due to issues with networks they may have difficulty getting through to their parents so there is no need to panic.
Can parents arrange to meet children somewhere following an earthquake or evacuation?
No. It is critical that children are physically collected by their parents from school, or in the event of an evacuation to Van Asch, from their South field.
If an evacuation to Van Asch takes place when/where can I collect my child?
In any evacuation situation, it is vitally important that classes stay together and teachers know the whereabouts of each child in their class. For this reason, we ask parents not to come to school to collect their child or uplift them on the way to Van Asch. Once we have reached the assembly area at Van Asch and all children are safely accounted for, you will be welcome to take your child with you. When you do this, please speak directly to your child's teacher so they can mark him/her off the class roll.
Can I take other children home with me?
No unless contact has been made directly with the children’s parents and permission has been granted by that parent.
Do I need to let the class teacher know that I am taking my children with me?
Absolutely. It is essential that parents speak directly to their child(ren)’s class teacher and inform them that you are taking your child off the school site.
How do teachers keep track of where the children are?
Each teacher has a class list with emergency contacts for their class. Following an event such as an earthquake or fire, a roll call is done immediately. This information is passed on to the Associate Principal. In the case of an evacuation, the teacher will keep a record of which children have been collected and which children still remain.
What happens if my child is unaccounted for?
Immediately following an emergency such as an earthquake, key staff have designated responsibilities to sweep the school buildings or locate children that are not accounted for before and after the class roll call.
How will parents be informed in the days following an earthquake?
Depending on the circumstances the school will inform parents of the situation using one or more of the following methods:
- A text will be sent out using the emergency alert system
- An email will be sent to all parents on the school data base
- The school website will be updated
- Parents can phone into the school
What is the procedure when an earthquake occurs?
All teachers have discussed and drilled their classes on the stop, drop, cover and hold technique. The children will remain in this position until the shaking has stopped. If a blast on the fog horn sounds then an immediate evaluation to Van Asch School will take place. If not the teachers will assemble their class on the field and wait further instructions.
What happens if an emergency takes place and my child is not at school?
Sumner School has an Education Outside the Classroom (EOTC) Risk Analysis Management system (RAM). Teachers are expected to submit a RAM form for approval before most offsite activities take place. For higher risk type activities eg camps, ski trips, approval is sought from the Board of Trustees. Part of the RAM for all EOTC activities includes the following:
- An appropriate adult:child ratio will be in place depending on the specific type of activity involved
- A first aid kit will be carried by the teacher responsible for the event
- Teachers will carry a copy of parents’ emergency contact details
- Teachers will carry cell phones
Please note: In some cases such as Technology classes at Christchurch East School, there is a separate emergency procedure at the site. In this case our teachers will follow this procedure. If an emergency was to occur, Sumner School will make contact as soon as possible with the teacher responsible for the EOTC activity.