Safety Tip of the Week: What is ‘Safe and Well’ for disaster recovery?

This week Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about the Safe and Well website related to disaster recovery. 

“Safe and Well” is a website through the American Red Cross designed to help make communication with loved ones easier during a disaster emergency. At this website, provided and sponsored by the American Red Cross, people can register and list themselves as “Safe and Well.” This resource helps people who may be concerned about a loved one during a disaster search for them. Once the person in the affected zone is registered, others can look them up and see if they are listed. In emergencies, telephone communications may not be available for many hours.

After a disaster, letting your family and friends know you are safe and well can bring them peace of mind.

I found that reading through the “help” section of the Safe and Well site was very helpful as a tutorial on what to do, how to register and how it can be used as a resource.

There is also a frequently asked questions (FAQ) tab to help explain what Safe and Well can do and can’t do. This resource is provided as a communication tool for people in an affected disaster area to get messages to loved ones outside the area. Here is a list of the types of messages a person may be able to post for someone searching for them:

  • I am safe and well.
  • Family and I are safe and well.
  • Currently at a shelter.
  • Currently at home.
  • Currently at a friend’s/family member’s/neighbor’s house.
  • Currently at a hotel.
  • Will make phone calls when able.
  • Will send emails when able.
  • Will mail letter or post card when able.

It is important that the information that is requested be filled out in full and as accurately as possible since this is a search for a specific person. There are privacy regulations which limit the information about the listed person which can be publicly displayed on the website. Your loved ones will need to know your current address, phone number or email to search for you. In the event of an emergency, it is important that these types of resources are utilized.

To learn more about this service through the American Red Cross, visit the Safe and Well website.

Safety Tip of the Week: Storm Safety

Lightning in a residential neighborhood

This week Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information from the American Red Cross about storm safety, especially what to do in the event of a thunderstorm. 

A thunderstorm is considered severe if it produces hail at least 1 inch in diameter or has wind gusts of at least 58 miles per hour. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes or hurricanes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can cause flash flooding, and high winds can damage homes and blow down trees and utility poles, causing widespread power outages.

Be prepared

  • Learn about your local community’s emergency warning system for severe thunderstorms.
  • Discuss thunderstorm safety and lightning safety with all members of your household.
  • Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm. This should be away from windows, skylights and glass doors that could be broken by strong winds or hail.
  • Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a severe thunderstorm.
  • Make trees and shrubbery more wind resistant by keeping them trimmed and removing damaged branches.
  • Protect your animals by ensuring that any outside buildings that house them are protected in the same way as your home.
  • Consult your local fire department if you are considering installing lightning rods.
  • Get trained in first aid and learn how to respond to emergencies.
  • Put together an emergency preparedness kit.

 How to respond during a thunderstorm

  • Listen to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for emergency updates. Watch for signs of a storm, like darkening skies, lightning flashes or increasing wind.
  • Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely to occur. Many people struck by lightning are not in the area where rain is occurring.
  • If a severe thunderstorm warning is issued, take shelter in a substantial building or in a vehicle with the windows closed. Get out of mobile homes that can blow over in high winds.
  • If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be in danger from lightning. If thunder roars, go indoors! The National Weather Service recommends staying inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder clap.
  • Avoid electrical equipment and telephones. Use battery-powered TVs and radios instead.
  • Shutter windows and close outside doors securely. Keep away from windows.
  • Do not take a bath, shower or use plumbing.
  • If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.
  • If you are outside and cannot reach a safe building, avoid high ground; water; tall, isolated trees; and metal objects such as fences or bleachers. Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are NOT safe.

Stay safe

  • Never drive through a flooded roadway. You cannot predict how deep the water may be.
  • Stay away from storm-damaged areas to keep from putting yourself at risk from the effects of severe thunderstorms.
  • Continue to listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or to local radio and television stations for updated information or instructions, as access to roads or some parts of the community may be blocked.
  • Help people who may require special assistance, such as infants, children and the elderly or disabled.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and report them immediately.
  • Watch your animals closely. Keep them under your direct control.

Read more about thunderstorm safety from The American Red Cross, which has many helpful tools for emergency planning.

Safety Tip of the Week: Summer Safety

Photo of sunglasses and sunscreen on sand at beach

This week Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about summer safety.

Summer is just around the corner!

Summer is just around the corner, and we will soon have to cope with weather-related hazards such as heat and direct sun exposure. We all should be aware of the potential hazards that are a part of working and playing in an outdoor environment in the summer.


The combination of heat and humidity is a serious health threat during the summer months and a reason for many clinic visits. It’s especially important to make sure we are all aware of the risks of heat-related illness. Remind workers to:

  • Drink plenty of water before getting thirsty.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing, such as cotton.
  • Take frequent short breaks in cool shade.
  • Eat smaller meals before heavy activity.
  • Avoid caffeine or large amounts of sugar.
  • Check medications to ensure heat won’t create adverse side effects.
  • Understand and remember that clothing, if too heavy, can increase heat stress.


Ultraviolet (UV) radiation causes premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, cataracts and skin cancer. No matter what the media tells you, there are no safe UV rays or safe suntans. We need to be especially careful in the sun if we burn easily or spend a lot of time outdoors:

  • Cover up. Wear tightly woven clothing you can’t see through.
  • Use sunscreen. A sun protector factor (SPF) of at least 15 blocks 93 percent of UV rays.
  • Wear a hat. A wide brim hat, not a baseball cap, works best because it protects the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp.
  • Wear UV-absorbent shades. Sunglasses don’t have to be expensive, but they should be able to block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation.
  • Limit exposure. UV rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Safety Tip of the Week: What is Type 2 Driver Licensing?

Close-up photograph of hands on a steering wheel driving

This week Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about Type 2 Driver Licensing.

What is Type 2 Driver Licensing?

Did you know that in an effort to ensure the safety of students and staff and to meet a reasonable standard of care, our Transportation Department has developed a Type 2 Driver Licensing protocol? Employees who may need to drive a district vehicle, either to transport students or for some other work-related activity, are invited to complete a short training course through the district Transportation Department. The 1.5 hour class consists of an explanation of district requirements and a presentation on defensive driving. While not a mandatory class, this is provided to those interested in learning more about Type 2 Driver Licensing.

The last class of the school year is on Wednesday, June 7 from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the Transportation Department, 3000 R.W. Johnson Road in Tumwater. If interested in taking this course, register by emailing the school district’s driver trainer at

Type 2 Requirements

Drivers must meet and continue to meet the requirements of this district as follows:

  • Valid Washington state driver’s license.
  • Successfully complete Type 2 Authorization Course through Transportation or Safe Schools as required by the Transportation Department.
  • Proof of personal vehicle insurance.

Why is this important? Student and staff safety is our top priority! If you were unaware of the safety requirements surrounding transporting students in a district vehicle and are interested in learning more, please contact the district Transportation Department at (360) 596-7700 or see information on the district website Staff Resources page.

Safety Tip of the Week: Computer Vision Syndrome

Photo of woman rubbing eyes while working at computer

This week Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information from the American Optometric Association about Computer Vision Syndrome.

Computer Vision Syndrome

Computer Vision Syndrome, also referred to as Digital Eye Strain, describes a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use. Many individuals experience eye discomfort and vision problems when viewing digital screens for extended periods. The level of discomfort appears to increase with the amount of digital screen use.

The average American worker spends seven hours a day on the computer either in the office or working from home. The e American Optometric Association is working to educate both employers and employees about how to avoid digital eye strain in the workplace. To help alleviate digital eye strain, follow the 20-20- 20 rule; take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.

The most common symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain are:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry eyes
  • Neck and shoulder pain

These symptoms may be caused by:

  • Glare on a digital screen
  • Improper viewing distances
  • Poor seating posture
  • Uncorrected vision problems
  • A combination of these factors

Many of the visual symptoms experienced by users are only temporary and will decline after stopping computer work or use of the digital device. However, some individuals may experience continued reduced visual abilities, such as blurred distance vision, even after stopping work at a computer. If nothing is done to address the cause of the problem, the symptoms will continue to recur and perhaps worsen with future digital screen use.

Prevention or reduction of the vision problems associated with Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain involves taking steps to control lighting and glare on the device screen, establishing proper working distances and posture for screen viewing, and assuring that even minor vision problems are properly corrected.

What causes Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain?

Viewing a computer or digital screen often makes the eyes work harder. As a result, the unique characteristics and high visual demands of computer and digital screen device viewing make many individuals susceptible to the development of vision-related symptoms. Uncorrected vision problems can increase the severity of Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain Symptoms.

Viewing a computer or digital screen is different than reading a printed page. Often the letters on the computer or handheld device are not as precise or sharply defined, the level of contrast of the letters to the background is reduced, and the presence of glare and reflections on the screen may make viewing difficult.

Viewing distances and angles used for this type of work are also often different from those commonly used for other reading or writing tasks. As a result, the eye focusing and eye movement requirements for digital screen viewing can place additional demands on the visual system.

In addition, the presence of even minor vision problems can often significantly affect comfort and performance at a computer or while using other digital screen devices. Uncorrected or under-corrected vision problems can be major contributing factors to computer-related eyestrain.

In most cases, symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain occur because the visual demands of the task exceed the visual abilities of the individual to comfortably perform them. At greatest risk for developing Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain are those persons who spend two or more continuous hours at a computer or use a digital screen device every day.

Regular eye examinations and proper viewing habits can help to prevent or reduce the development of the symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome.

To learn more about Computer Vision Syndrome, including proper body positioning when using a computer, visit the American Optometric Association website.

Safety Tip of the Week: Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Person holding hand to ear to reflect attempt to hear information in a noisy environment

This week Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, provides information about noise-induced hearing loss.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

How loud is too loud?

Loud noise can be very damaging to your hearing. Both the level of noise and the length of time you listen to the noise can put you at risk for noise-induced hearing loss. Noise levels are measured in decibels, or dB for short. The higher the decibel level, the louder the noise. The hearing system can be injured not only by a loud blast or explosion but also by prolonged exposure to high noise levels.

How can I tell if I am listening to dangerous noise levels?

  • You must raise your voice to be heard.
  • You can’t hear someone 3 feet away from you.
  • Speech around you sounds muffled or dull after you leave the noisy area.
  • You have pain or ringing in your ears after exposure to noise.

How can loud noise damage hearing?

One of the most common negative effects of loud noise on hearing is a permanent hearing loss. This happens over time in the following way:

  • Loud sounds are collected by the ear as sound waves. The sound waves travel down the ear canal to the eardrum with enough force to disrupt the delicate hearing system.
  • The loud sound passes through the middle ear and travels to the inner ear, also known as the cochlea. The tiny hair cells lining this fluid-filled chamber can be damaged as the loud sound reaches the inner ear.
  • Only healthy hair cells can send electrical impulses to the brain. It is in the brain that the sound is understood and interpreted. Hair cells damaged by loud sound cannot send the impulse to the brain for interpretation.
  • Intense brief noises, like a firecracker or an explosion, can damage hair cells, as can continuous and/or repeated exposure to high levels of noise.
  • Once the hair cells are damaged, there is no current treatment to repair them.
  • How else can loud noise be harmful?
  • Loud noise can increase fatigue and cause irritability. Noisy classrooms can make it harder for teachers to teach and children to learn. Noisy backgrounds can make understanding conversation harder.

There are three things you can do to protect your hearing from damaging noises: walk away, turn down the volume and protect your ears.

Learn more about how to protect your hearing and about Decibel Exposure Time Guidelines


Safety Tip of the Week: Chemicals and the Globally Harmonized System

Safety First Logo image

This week Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, provides information about chemicals and the Globally Harmonized System.

A Safety Data Sheet (SDS), formerly called a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), communicates hazard information about chemical products to employees. These safety sheets are provided to the district by the vendor or producer of the chemical and are an integral part of the chemical management plan for the district. It is important every person understands and knows how to read an SDS in the event of an exposure to a particular chemical.

Washington state has enacted the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), which is an internationally adopted system for the classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals. This system includes established criteria for classifying hazards and for further rating the hazards according to their risks. The GHS provides common language and symbols for each hazard class and each category within a class.

There are 16 standard sections on every SDS. If you see a SDS or MSDS that does not identify the following 16 sections, then a new safety data sheet needs to be received from the vendor.

The sections are as follows:

Section 1 – Identification identifies the chemical, as well as the recommended uses, and provides contact information for the supplier.

Section 2Hazard(s) identification includes the hazards of the chemical and appropriate warning information associated with those hazards.

Section 3Composition/information on ingredients identifies ingredient(s) contained in the product including impurities and stabilizing additives. This section includes information on substances, mixtures and all chemicals where a trade secret is claimed.

Section 4First-aid measures describes initial care that should be given by untrained responders to an individual who has been exposed to the chemical.

Section 5Firefighting measures includes recommendations for fighting a fire caused by the chemical, including extinguishing techniques, equipment and hazards from fire.

Section 6Accidental release measures provides recommendations on response to spills, leaks or releases, including containment and cleanup practices to prevent or minimize exposure.

Section 7 – Handling and storage provides guidance on safe handling practices and conditions for safe storage of chemicals, including other chemicals which may be incompatible.

Section 8 – Exposure controls/personal protection indicates exposure limits, engineering controls and personal protective equipment measures that can be used to minimize exposure.

Section 9 – Physical and chemical properties identifies physical and chemical properties associated with the substance or mixture.

Section 10 – Stability and reactivity describes the reactivity hazards of the chemical and the chemical stability information. This section is broken into 3 parts: reactivity, chemical stability and other.

Section 11 – Toxicological information identifies toxicological and health effects information. This includes routes of exposure, related symptoms, acute and chronic effects and numerical measures of toxicity.

Section 12 – Ecological information provides information to evaluate the environmental impact of the chemical if it were released to the environment.

Section 13 – Disposal considerations provides guidance on proper disposal, recycling or reclamation of the chemical(s) or its container, and safe handling practices to minimize exposure.

Section 14 – Transport information includes guidance on classification information for shipping and transporting of hazardous chemical(s) by road, air, rail or sea.

Section 15 – Regulatory information identifies the safety, health and environmental regulations specific for the product that is not indicated anywhere else on the SDS.

Section 16 – Other information indicates when the SDS was prepared or when the last known revision was made. The SDS may also state where the changes have been made to the previous version. You may wish to contact the supplier for an explanation of the changes. Other useful information also may be included here.

Click here to view an example of an SDS for acetone. Acetone is a common chemical (think fingernail polish remover).

Understanding chemicals and their safe use and storage is important for continued safety at school and at home. SDSs are easily available online but, in addition, the district maintains binders in different locations for all staff. By the beginning of the new school year 2017-18, all of the districts SDSs will be available online at “Safe Schools.”