At Shantivanam, it is our policy to provide a safe and healthy environment for all children, parents, and staff. All staff members watch for potential safety hazards and report them to the director as soon as possible. Primary staff members are certified in pediatric first aid, rescue breathing and pediatric CPR. We also discuss safety procedures with the children at an age-appropriate level and our facility is a smoke-free and gun-free environment.
To support a safe environment the front door to our facility is separated from the main play areas so children do not have direct access to an outside door. We also use baby gates in front of all of our stairways to prevent falls.
Smoke alarms and a carbon monoxide detector are in strategic locations throughout the house and are kept in working order. A fire extinguisher is kept in easy access and is recharged annually. A representative from the Encinitas Fire Department annually visits our facility and does a safety inspection.
While a child is on the diaper-changing table a teacher is never more than an arms-length away from the child. Plastic bags used for soiled diapers are kept in a bag holder out of reach of the children. When older children use the bathroom in the preschool area, the curtain is left open and they are checked on frequently. The hot water in the children’s bathroom has been shut off to avoid any accidental burns. There are several vertical handrails for the children to hold onto in the bathroom to assist them while getting up on one of the step stools. A wrap-around step stool is used for the toilet and it is safely secured so it will not slip. A bumper rod protects the children from falls into the corner of the sink.
When children are moving from one area to another that requires going up or down the stairs, staff members open the gate for the children and assist them if needed as they use the child-height railing on the side of the stairs. At nap time children sleep on low-to-the-floor cots in the preschool area with a staff member always present with them.
To lessen the risk of choking, children must be sitting while eating or drinking. The children are allowed to talk with each other while they eat but they are made aware that playing or laughing while they are eating could cause them to choke. Cabinets and drawers with potentially dangerous contents have locks installed and are closed immediately after each use. All of the electrical sockets in the children’s areas are securely covered with safety covers.
Our outdoor safety policies include, but are not limited to, keeping the sandbox covered when it is not in use, maintaining the cushioned mats under the climbing dome and swings, and restricting running activities to the grass area and not on the patio, the platform, or the forest area. The openings at the top of our slide in the younger children’s area are covered by Plexiglas to prevent falls. The large green slide and the castle on the hill are for children who are at least 4 years old and have shown they are safety conscious.
The children participate in earthquake and fire drills by going to pre-designated areas. For fire drills the children have an area in the back yard they assemble in with the teachers. For earthquake drills, the preschool children have a designated area in the hall with handles attached to the wall near the floor to hold on to. In the Entry Level classroom the children have a sturdy wooden enclosure to go into in case of an earthquake. The children often play in this enclosure and we call it the “cave”. Since the children often play in the cave and are familiar with it, there is less chance they will resist going into it in an emergency.
A first aid kit is kept in a handy location. Children’s personal medications are marked with their name and kept in a cabinet out of the children’s reach. Emergency phone numbers, emergency shut off locations, and escape routes are posted in clear view on the main bulletin board. A three day supply of water and food for all children and teachers, as well as other emergency supplies, are kept on the premises.
Our Security Policy regarding unauthorized people or intruders in the building includes several preventative measures that decrease the likelihood of a problem. First, we intentionally do not have any external indicators, (such as signs or playground equipment), visible from the street that would alert the general public that we have young children here. We also intentionally omit the school address on our web site so as to avoid unannounced or unwanted visitors. In addition, I familiarize myself with who the registered sex offenders are in our area by regularly visiting web sites that list names, addresses, and show photographs of them.
When we hear or see police helicopters circling our area, or other indications of possible danger, we remain calm but are proactive and bring the children inside and secure all doors and windows. We keep the front door locked at all times and keep the side gate locked as well to create one point of entry for the school. Teachers visually verify who is requesting entry before they open the door.
In the event an unauthorized person was to gain entry to the school, teachers have been instructed on who will take the children to safe areas and who will call 911. We have easy access to multiple landlines as well as cell phones on the premises. The walkway through our garage from the children’s garden to the preschool classroom is approved by State Licensing and is designated as our safe area. Both doors in this area have dead bolts that can only be locked from the inside. There is also a phone in this area.
We are registered with both the local fire department and with the Sheriff’s Office as a childcare facility so an emergency call from our phone immediately alerts the dispatcher that there are multiple young children at this address.
To avoid danger from within, all potential personnel have a complete background check prior to employment and no parent volunteer is ever left alone with the children.