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Knowing what to do in an emergency

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GMCS staff participate in safety training before school starts

When parents send their children off to school, they expect things to run smoothly during the day and for nothing bad to happen. But if something does happen, schools need to be prepared and know what to do, no matter the situation, whether it’s a fire, flood, tornado, or even an active shooter.

That’s where the iloveyouguys Foundation steps in.

The iloveyouguys Foundation was started by Ellen Stoddard-Keyes and her husband Michael Keyes after their daughter Emily died in a school shooting at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado. Emily was 16 years old, and the last two texts she sent on her brand-new cell phone were to her parents. They both said, “ I love you guys.”

In an interview with the Sun, Stoddard-Keyes explained that she wanted to start the foundation after she questioned the safety practices of her childrens’ school. She said she was asking questions before the shooting even happened.

“I had said, ‘You have these big binders of all these safety things, and when you have a sub come or when something happens, how are teachers expected to look through this binder when they’re amped up a little bit? So putting all these complex responses in a binder did not seem like a good idea,” Stoddard-Keyes explained. “So after the incident my husband and I talked through it and found a couple of programs around the country that were doing the action-based responses rather than trying to figure out each hazard and your responses.”

The foundation provides standard response protocol and standard reunification method training for schools. These trainings teach school staff what to do in an emergency, and how to smoothly reunite parents with their children.

How a school district responds to a crisis, no matter what it is, is very important. The iloveyouguys foundation uses five key strategies in their standard response protocol: hold, secure, lockdown, evacuate, and shelter. Stoddard-Keyes noted that at least one of these tools can and should be used in an emergency.

“If they practice the four actions and something unexpected happens, they’re going to find that one of those actions is going to be a good response to whatever that event is,” Stoddard-Keyes said. “Even if what unforeseen and unplanned for, because guess what, those happen.”

Besides the standard response protocol, Stoddard-Keyes also stressed the importance of an easy reunification process.

“It’s important because when a reunification is not planned and done correctly, it really increases the level of trauma; even in a non-traumatic situation it can make it traumatic, because as soon as the school day is interrupted, parents get concerned,” Stoddard-Keyes explained. “Especially in the big incidents where it effects the whole community, a well-done reunification is the beginning of the healing process.”

The iloveyouguys Foundation came to the Gallup-McKinley County Schools district for a two-day training session July 27 and 28, with the second day including a full scenario walk-through where the staff was broken up into three groups: parents, students, and the reunification team.

Each staff member got a chance to see the training through each role.

Lincoln Elementary Principal Kelley Fitzmaurice attended the training for a second time this year. He said he was grateful for the opportunity.

“It’s an extremely valuable program, and I’m glad that principals did have the opportunity to attend again this year because obviously school safety is something that is super important and kind of at the forefront of everybody’s mind,” Fitzmaurice said. “The program that the iloveyouguys Foundation has put together makes everything very very clear cut and easy to commhnicate. … It’s something that we can share with our families and students in a very easy to understand way.”

By Molly Ann Howell
Managing Editor