Safety & Security
Washington County Public Schools is committed to providing a safe environment for students, staff and visitors. We work closely with safety officials - police, fire, emergency medical services and public health - in order to ensure our schools are well prepared for an emergency. We have developed a comprehensive plan that covers a wide variety of emergencies and serves as a guide to help staff and our public safety partners respond swiftly should a crisis occur in our schools.
Should a school emergency occur, a parent can get important information and directions by doing one or all of the following:
- Check your phones and email for WCPS Connect messages
- Tune into the local television and radio stations for news alerts
- Visit the WCPS website and Facebook page
The information included on this page provides an overview of the many safety measures that WCPS has implemented and that can serve as a guide for parents, students and staff should there be a school emergency or if schools are closed/cancelled due to inclement weather.
Please report any safety concerns you may have to your school principal.
Safety Measures in Our Schools
Parents should be assured to know that the safety measures in place through WCPS are extensive. The school system’s Safety and Security Specialist/Risk Manager works diligently to ensure that the system-wide emergency plan is current and that all staff members are prepared to respond to a wide variety of school emergencies. Each of our schools has numerous safety measures in place to provide a safe learning environment for our students. Some of the safety measures that can be found in schools include:
- A crisis response team with selected members that have participated in training to ensure appropriate response on a variety of potential school emergencies.
- All exterior school doors are locked with key-card, buzzer/intercom, and video camera systems in place.
- Closed circuit television (CCTV) installed in many schools.
- Emergency radios to receive updates on emergency situation.
- Entrances monitored during school hours.
- Visitors sign-in and wear an I.D. badge. Visitors are asked to arrive early and be prepared to identify themselves. We thank parents and visitors for their patience.
- All principals and key administrators have cell phones in order to assist in emergency communications.
- A minimum supply of two-way radios to assist in emergency communications.
- Intrusion alarms in many schools.
WCPS uses standard emergency response protocols when emergencies arise. These responses represent the actions that will be taken at schools in the event of an emergency. They use simple, common language to make it easier for students and staff to know exactly what they need to do when an emergency announcement is made. The emergency responses include five actions- Hold, Secure, Evacuate, Shelter and Lockdown.
- Hold! Stay in Your Room/Area, Clear the Halls. When a hold is announced, students will clear the hallways and remain in the room or area they are in until the “all clear” is announced. Staff will secure classrooms and account for students and adults. School operations and instruction will continue as usual. Additional information may be provided in the announcement to the school. A hold may be used for situations such as EMS crews providing medical assistance in the building, a disturbance in a hallway, or a facility issue that does not require the building to be evacuated.
- Secure! Get Inside and Lock Outside Doors. When the secure action is announced, any students or staff members who are outside the school will come inside, and administrators will make sure all outside doors are locked. Staff will increase situational awareness and account for students and adults. School operations and instruction will continue as normal. The secure action may be used when there is something unsafe outside the building, such as an unauthorized person on school grounds or a public safety concern in the area surrounding the school.
- Evacuate! Move to a Designated Safe Place. When the evacuate action is announced, staff will lead students to a safe evacuation location and account for students and adults. The evacuate action may be used when there is an emergency such as smoke being detected in the building or a gas leak or chemical spill in the school or surrounding area.
- Shelter! Listen for Instructions Due to a Hazard. When the shelter action is announced, staff will provide students with safety strategy instructions to follow and account for students and adults. The shelter action may be used in the event of severe weather, hazardous material spills or other hazardous situations near the school.
- Lockdown! Locks, Lights, Out of Sight. When the lockdown action is announced, students will remain in their classrooms, move away from sight, stay silent, and limit cell phone use. Staff will recover students from the hallway, if possible, lock classroom doors, and turn out the lights. Doors will remain closed and locked. Lockdown will only be lifted when law enforcement opens classroom doors to move students and staff to a safe location. The lockdown action will be used in the event of a significant and imminent danger.
WCPS Partners with Public Safety Agencies
School staff works closely with the appropriate local public safety agencies, such as police, fire, emergency medical services and public health to effectively deal with a wide range of crises. Specifically, WCPS has partnered with Washington County Emergency Services, the Hagerstown Police Department, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington County Health Department and other agencies in planning and training activities to promote emergency preparedness throughout WCPS and the community. Each school has coverage from a school resource officer. More information about the role and authority of school resource officers can be found under Documents to the right of this page.
How Parents Can Prepare for an Emergency
As a parent, there are three simple steps parents can take to prepare for a school emergency.
- Provide accurate emergency contact information to your child's school and notify the school if it changes. That will ensure that you will receive timely information on your phone and by email via WCPS Connect.
- Communicate with your child about being prepared for emergencies. This includes taking drills, such as fire drills, seriously. It also includes reporting when unidentified visitors are on school property or reporting anything that is out of the ordinary or unusual in the school day to an adult at school.
Communications During a School Emergency
During an emergency, it is critical that parents receive important information and directions from school officials before going to the school or scene of an emergency. You can be confident that accurate and timely information will be released to parents, the public and the media during any significant emergencies.
Each school has a procedure for helping parents locate their child(ren). Parents will be directed to a specific location where they will be required to show proper identification. Remember, a student can only be released to an adult that is documented as an emergency contact. If you are a non-custodial parent, you must be listed with your child's emergency contact information as a guardian and show proper identification.
Staff Training for Emergencies is Ongoing
As a parent, you should feel confident to know that we provide crisis management training to school administrators. Each school has key staff members with assigned roles and responsibilities to perform during an emergency. The school system’s emergency response plan is modeled on the National Incident Management System (NIMS) that has been developed by the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, every school conducts emergency drills throughout the school year so that students and staff are aware of the most effective and safe emergency responses.
Emotional Support for Students During Times of Crisis
It is important that our students feel safe in our schools, especially after a crisis has occurred. Should there be a need, the school system provides psychological services and support to students and staff. These services are provided by school psychologists and/or school counselors certified by the Maryland State Department of Education. School or system administrators can activate the school system’s Crisis Team to respond to schools or may use some of the team members to address specific situations, if needed. The crisis response team will provide assistance to students to help them understand what has happened and to help them cope with their emotions and reactions.