Safer Schools Create Safer Communities
A school is more than a building. It is a place for children to learn, play, to be inspired, and to be safe. Yet in the event a child’s safety is compromised, how well prepared are we?
As the national capital and a busy landlocked city, Delhi’s most visible and talked about natural and manmade hazards are fog, smog, epidemics, and accidents. However, since no major flood or earthquake has occurred in the recent past, there is low recall and awareness among the population on the associated risks. This makes the inhabitants more vulnerable as they are not aware or prepared.
Honeywell Safe Schools is a holistic school safety and disaster risk reduction program that will reach 25,000 children, 40,000 parents, and 1,000 teachers in 50 schools from FY 2017-20; empowering them to take charge of their safety through risk reduction, disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. The program is a pioneering school safety program that brings a tailor-made approach to address each school’s unique challenges thereby ensuring children go to school without fear, remain safe in the school, and return home safely.
Our Approach – Creating a Safe Ecosystem
We follow a child centric and child focused approach, aimed at evolving an effective learning mechanism for the vulnerable students to learn, act, and mitigate their own risks. Through awareness generation, training, and action, we seek to empower the communities we are working in. Our unique approach involves the following key actions
- Disaster Management Planning: Disaster management committee in each school will be trained to develop a Disaster Management Plan. This will capture school-specific hazards, vulnerabilities, resources, and plans for mitigation, preparedness and response. The plan will then be revised at least annually by the school disaster management committee.
- Non-Structural Mitigation: Non-structural or falling hazards are a leading cause of injuries in mass evacuation, particularly during earthquakes. The schools will be fitted with better non-structural mitigation of risks as part of its comprehensive initiative. School kitchens will be designed to minimize the risk of fire and similar measures will be taken in other high risk areas. Safety kits, evacuation plans, and signage will also be installed.
- Training and awareness of students, teachers and administrators: Training process adopts a learn-reflect-empower approach to allow for maximum impact, and increase awareness about safety hazards and risks.
- Hazard Hunts: Students will learn to analyse their own surroundings and then take small but concrete action towards reducing the risks around them.
- Task Force Trainings: These student task forces will be set up and trained: warning and awareness task force; evacuation task force; search and rescue task force; first aid task force; and fire safety task force.
- Mock Drills: Mock drills will be practiced, as they are the most useful exercise to check the preparedness of a system.
- Campaigns: Spearheaded by the school administration, campaigns create widespread safety awareness for different hazards and risks through the year. A specific day will be dedicated in order to align the issue/theme for the month.
- Volunteers Engagement: Honeywell India employees will volunteer their time and hands-on support to the program, helping drive a culture of safety.
- Child Protection: Initiatives will be run to identify, sensitize and strengthen school systems on child protection issues including prevention of violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect.
The program integrates both hard and soft components of school safety into a single program. The methodology it uses has been developed and showcased in UN publications as an example of good practices. The inclusive nature of this intervention feeds off of its interactive and participatory approach. Additionally, it also supports children with disabilities. The concept of School Safety Barometer will be introduced , which will keep a record of the progress level in making a school safe, aiding the program in keeping track of the impact it has had.
SEEDS undertook a baseline study to understand school safety and disaster-preparedness in Delhi, assess risks and risk perception, and determine remedial measures. The baseline study was released on 27th July 2017. It primarily identified potential risks related to natural and man-made disasters, and revealed startling facts about the lack of awareness and involvement from parents:
- Ironically, most parents feared road accidents and bullying, but failed to recognize more serious life-risks from natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods.
- About 60 percent respondents blamed losses during disasters to inadequate response systems, but 99 percent did not know any helpline numbers to these response systems.
- Also in contradiction, while response systems were to blame, lack of community preparedness was not.