Get Ready for Mother Nature: Winter Preparedness in APS
None of us can control Mother Nature, but we can do our best to plan for inclement weather. This week marks the beginning of Georgia Preparedness Week (Nov. 30 through Dec. 4). My number one priority is to make sure Atlanta Public Schools students and staff are safe and ready to learn and to teach.
Did you know that last year APS updated its comprehensive decision-making protocol for bad weather? I am committed to communicating inclement weather decisions to parents, students and employees, and this school year, we have a plan in place that continues to put safety first. Should severe weather threaten us during the school day, we will bring in additional drivers to ensure buses start and run on time. We will also ensure that district vehicles, equipment and supplies are prepared and in place before an emergency strikes. APS has now established schedules and guidelines for early dismissal and delayed openings, and provided inclement weather training for all drivers and supervisors. Additionally, we have made emergency food, water and medical supplies readily available and easy to access at all district facilities and ensured that the needed technology and equipment are available for emergency communication.
Furthermore, this year we will again monitor weather reports closely and hold conversations throughout the day, overnight and early morning as needed with our emergency preparedness partners to help us make the best decisions for our students’ safety.
APS activates our severe Core Weather Team, which includes representatives from APS Operations, Transportation, Safety & Security, Facilities Services, Communications, Curriculum and Instruction, Nutrition and Information Technology departments when our city is under a severe weather threat. Our team enters into a live conference call to assess the weather information we are receiving as well as emergency plans driven by the City of Atlanta and the state’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Office, Fulton County Emergency Management, and others. In these conference calls, we rely heavily on information provided by the National Weather Service and local meteorologists to provide the best and most reliable information. The meteorologists often want to wait as late as possible, when better data allows for more accurate forecasts and precise modeling. Sometimes, this wait can conflict with the district’s need to notify families early as possible. Once we make a decision about school operations during bad weather, we will begin notifying parents and caregivers as soon as possible.
Here are some important steps to know when severe weather impacts our school day:
- APS will contact parents and guardians as soon as possible; therefore, it is important that we have current contact information. I encourage all APS parents and guardians to log in to the APS campus portal to update their preferences for emergency notifications, which include robo-calls, text messages and e-mails at http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/CPP. Parents, make sure we know how to contact you in an emergency. We will do our part to notify you, but we need your help to stay informed.
- Should we need to close our schools early due to inclement weather forecasted for the same day after school has already started, the Core Weather Team will convene as early in the school day as possible, likely around 9:30 a.m. to make a recommendation. You would, in this case, begin receiving notice of our decision by 10:30 a.m. that day from the district’s communications channels, including the local news media.
- If inclement weather is expected the next day, our team will begin the conversations and close monitoring on whether to delay or close schools.
- We will aim to give you advance notice so you can put plans in place for your children should we have to cancel classes or afternoon activities early or if schools have to close for a full day or more. Depending on when the bad weather may hit, we will communicate our decisions in time for local newscasts (4 a.m., noon, 4 p.m., 5 p.m. 6 p.m. 10 p.m. or 11 p.m.). However, you don’t have to wait for news broadcasts.
- We will communicate with families via robo calls, texts and emails, the district website, social media such as Twitter, and local news outlets when there is a change in our normal school routine. I strongly encourage you to sign up to receive these communications from us. It is extremely important that you make sure we have updated contact information for your family.
As a district, we have a plan, but I want to make sure you do as well. In the event severe weather strikes, does your family have a plan in place? If not, make a plan today.
You should know how to contact one another in an emergency and reconnect with loved ones if you become separated. Create a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find. Be sure to address all the unique needs of young children, pets, older loved ones and family members with special needs in your plan. For more information and ideas on how to create a family emergency plan, visit the Ready Georgia site.
Be prepared. You should have enough food, water and supplies to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours. Learn what essential items you need in a ready kit; most of these items are reasonably priced and easy to find, but could be vital in saving your life. For a detailed list and more information on how to prepare a customized Ready kit for your family, visit http://www.ready.ga.gov/Prepare.
Baby, it’s cold outside. Be safe and stay warm!
Twitter handles to follow during inclement weather:
National Weather Service: @NWSAtlanta
The Atlanta-Fulton County Emergency Management Agency (AFCEMA),
Take a look at the work we’ve done at APS to prepare for inclement weather: