Summary of JFKS Security Measures – Updated June 2016
JFKS students and staff regularly practice established and German police-approved evacuation drills. In the event of an emergency, all students leave the school buildings and the campus grounds and report to their respective holding areas behind the school, where they are accompanied or met by their teachers. If there is a dangerous situation and students and staff cannot return to the buildings, then a nearby educational facility is prepared to accommodate all of JFKS. Teachers come prepared with class lists for attendance and telephone numbers. The administration members are in direct contact with each other via a walkie-talkie system with its own dedicated frequency, which is not influenced by other outside sources. “Evacuation Plan” signs are found in each classroom.
Lock-down procedures, approved by the German police, are in place and are practiced with the staff at the beginning of each school year. Administration has access to buttons, which when pushed, inform the entire school via the loudspeaker system that there is a dangerous situation inside the building. Teachers then lock themselves, their own students and any other students in the immediate area in their classrooms. They take cover under the tables and stay away from windows. Doors are only opened when the “all clear” is called by an administrator. In order to avoid creating a fearful situation for our students and at the recommendation of the police in Berlin, this safety procedure is not actively practiced with the students. “Lock-down Plan JFKS” signs are posted in every classroom.
After 9:00 am, access to the school campus is limited to the main gate at the top of the bus ramp and the delivery entrance adjacent to the fine arts building. One of the custodians locks all of the other gates from the inside, limiting access from the outside while still allowing the gates to be opened in case of an emergency. The Berlin Senat has not and unfortunately will not provide funds for JFKS to post guards at these gates to check identification of those entering the campus. A plainclothes policeman from the German Police regularly strolls the campus and the surrounding park areas, and squad cars patrol Teltower Damm and the bus ramp at different times during the school day.
Communication with Security Agencies
Joint meetings with the German Police, the Regional Security Office of the US Embassy, and the administration take place regularly, in order to review the security procedures of JFKS. Grants have been written and funds have already been provided by the Office of Overseas Schools, which have enabled the school to install the drop arms on the bus ramp and to add and widen pedestrian / emergency exit gates in the perimeter fence. The Trust Fund of the John F. Kennedy School met in November 2015 and was informed by a US Embassy representative to the Trust Fund that more monies are being made available to improve security. In coordination with the Schulamt of the district of Steglitz-Zehlendorf, the school’s Verein, and the US Embassy further measures, such as surveillance cameras and security guards, are being considered but need to adhere to German building and employment regulations. Funding from the American side has been increased, but the approval of grants and the actual implementation of measures still require more time.
With respect to our preparedness to deal with a disaster, JFKS continues to practice our evacuation drill regularly in the fall and the spring. Some parents, especially those of elementary school children, are concerned about what would happen if there was a real disaster somewhere else in Berlin, and everyone was to remain inside, as was the case in Brussels. Please be assured that your children will remain safe and supervised in school until the “all clear” has been called by the Berlin authorities. If the cell phone networks are functioning, then students will be able to call home, and for all others, elementary school students systematically will call out on landlines. Parents are asked then to check our website or Facebook for updates. Students will not be released from school without parents giving explicit instructions that they may go, or parents physically come and pick their children up.
In case the school must be evacuated, and students and staff cannot return to the campus for whatever reason, then all of the students will be cared for by the staff in an adjacent nearby facility, with control of the situation being turned over to the Berlin police. Again, the website or Facebook will be your best source of information. Students will remain in JFKS care and supervised until the OK has been given to release them to their parents or guardians.
Steven Pothen, 14 June 2016