You hear the phrase “safety first” time and time again.
But one school in Lafourche Parish took it literally.
That’s because Golden Meadow Lower Elementary School was the first school in the state to apply for and receive admittance to the Red Cross Ready Rating Program.
“I think the parents of the children here will feel safer knowing that we’re doing everything we can to protect their children and make school a safe place for the kids to be,” said GMLES principal Linda Guidry.
The Red Cross announced the inception of the Ready Rating Program in September in an effort to help schools and businesses with their emergency planning and preparedness efforts.
“Our business leaders and school officials know how important it is to be ready for an emergency, but they often don’t know where to start or they do not have the time,” said Kay Wilkins, CEO of the Red Cross Southeast Louisiana Chapter. “This program was created to give businesses and schools an easy starting point so they can feel more confident about the safety of employees and students.”
Schools and companies can apply online by taking an evaluation that measures their current preparedness efforts.
GMLES gained admittance by scoring a 99 out of 123 on the Red Cross online safety test. Guidry said the application process made her aware of many free services the Red Cross offers.
“The Red Cross will come to our facility, do a walk through, and look for any areas that may not be considered safe,” said Guidry. “We’ll discuss it, and we’ll hopefully remedy the situation. So I think all in all, it’s going to help the school be a safer school, especially in today’s times when not all schools are considered safe.”
Guidry said the Red Cross also offers programs that work with students directly. These included a project designed to help children decide what they would want to pack to take on an evacuation, door hangers with fire safety tips and a presentation on hand washing procedures.
“They have a phenomenal number of programs available that they’re willing to come to the schools or businesses and present – all dealing with safety, and you can never be too safe when you’re dealing with children, in my opinion,” she explained.
Because GMLES was one of the first 50 schools in Louisiana to gain admittance to the Ready Rating Program, the school received a $200 stipend that can be used to help maintain and increase the school’s score.
Guidry said she would use the money to replenish the emergency kits required in each classroom.
“That way I know we’ll have the water, the snacks, all the emergency equipment we need on hand should we have a lockdown,” she noted.
There is no maximum number of schools that can gain admittance to the Red Cross Ready Rating Program, but only the first 50 will receive the $200 stipend.
According to a Red Cross spokesperson, the stipend is still available to schools.
“I would encourage every school to sign up with the Red Cross,” said Guidry. “We all know just from living in this area, the effectiveness of the Red Cross when we had hurricanes, and how they showed up quickly and helped out. Now they can be in and among us on a more regular basis to make sure that our schools are safe.”
Businesses and schools interested in becoming a Ready Rating Program member can contact the Red Cross Southeast Louisiana Chapter at (504) 620-3120 or visit www.readyrating.org.
Kay Wilkins, CEO of the Southeast Louisiana Chapter, presents a Red Cross Ready Rating certificate to Linda A Guidry, principal of Golden Meadow Lower Elementary School. * Photo provided by GOLDEN MEADOW LOWER ELEMENTARY