Emergency Response FAQs

Q1. How does the School District of Philadelphia respond to an emergency?

A1. In case of emergency, administrators determine appropriate actions by identifying the type of crisis — severe weather, outside threat, etc. — and then following the predetermined Universal Emergency Response Procedures.

Q2. What are Universal Emergency Response Procedures?

A2. Universal Emergency Response Procedures are standard directives implemented in case of emergency. The four standardized procedures are: Evacuation; Reverse Evacuation; Lockdown; and Shelter in Place.

Q3. Can you define each of those safety procedures?

A3. Evacuation from a building is necessary during an internal emergency like a fire or gas leak. When an evacuation alarm is sounded, students and staff immediately exit the building and gather at pre-determined rally points. Regular drills throughout the school year ensure students and staff know where to go.

A Reverse Evacuation is called when conditions inside the school are safer than conditions outside, like if a tornado suddenly forms or an armed aggressor is approaching. Students and staff who are outside when a reverse evacuation is called immediately comes inside.

A Lockdown is used when a situation exists inside or outside the school that threatens the safety of staff and students. There are three (3) ways to secure the building:

  • Hold – used when there is an emergency in or around the building i.e., group/major fight, medical emergency, student abduction
  • Secure – used when there is danger outside of the building or in the surrounding community, i.e. bomb threat, police searching for a criminal suspect in the area
  • Lockdown – used when there is a direct threat to the school, i.e. active shooter, armed intruder

The Shelter-in-Place protocol is necessary when an external threat — including extreme weather or an armed aggressor — threatens students and staff and the safest place for all is inside the building. When a Shelter-in-Place announcement is made, students and staff clear the hallways, reporting to the nearest classroom or shelter area, and remain there until a school official gives the all-clear call.

Q4. I’m a parent/guardian. What should I do during a school emergency?

A4. Parents and Guardians should realize the safety of your children and our staff is a top priority. When an emergency occurs, we ask that parents do not go to their children’s schools. Important information will be provided to parents via the School District website and local TV and radio reports. Depending on the type of incident, school officials will also attempt to contact parents and guardians.

Q5. If the School District calls for parents/guardians to pick up their children after an emergency, what documentation do I need to present to school leaders? What if I’m unable to pick up my children?

A5. Even parents and guardians will be asked to present valid state identification — a driver’s license, for example — before their children will be released during an emergency. If a parent or guardian is not available, an adult listed on the student’s emergency contact form can retrieve the child with proper identification. Parents and guardians should be sure to update each student’s Emergency Contact Card.