Having an emergency preparedness plan in place is expected of all school districts and facilities. It’s expected, as well, that all students, parents, faculty and staff know the plan and how to put the plan in action if needed. These are the steps you must have for a successful school emergency preparedness plan.
Practice the plan. It’s vital to regularly conduct emergency and crisis drills. Every student, teacher, administrator and faculty member should participate in these drills and take them seriously each and every time.
- Have a plan. Seems like a no-brainer, but many people still stumble on this vital first step.
TeAch-nology states in their article “Steps to Take in School Emergency Preparedness” that this is key. The article says, “While simple, schools must outline specific problems complete with fictional situations so that staff can become familiar with the plan. This plan should include easy access to emergency personnel as well as evacuation regulations and plans. The information should be clearly available throughout the school so that even a visitor to the premises would be able to follow it. The plan should envelope situations like school violence, weather disasters, injury or illness, hostage situations, fire safety and terrorist activity, and even gas leaks or water problems. Schools should also be able to make a plan for situations that may occur on a community or national level.”
- Communicate the plan to everyone. When everyone knows the plan and how to execute the plan, there is a greater chance lives are saved.
The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools says schools should develop a crisis response team, “The response team should include key school personnel such as the principal, teachers, school nurse, counselor and custodian staff. Each person should have clear defined roles in an emergency.” The center goes on to say information about a school crisis response team is typically located on a school districts website.
It’s important to note that communication doesn’t just stop at the school level. Communicate the plan also with local law enforcement and parents. This communication (evacuation routes, alerts and warnings, etc.) informs these parties enough to act quickly in the event of a crisis.
- Practice the plan. It’s vital to regularly conduct emergency and crisis drills. Every student, teacher, administrator and faculty member should participate in these drills and take them seriously each and every time.
In an article entitled, “Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities,” the U.S. Department of Education advises the following: “At least once a year, provide crisis response training for teachers and staff. Also provide make-up trainings for those unable to attend the regular training session. Go through the crisis plan and procedures in order to familiarize all school personnel with it. Periodically remind staff of signals and codes.”
Three very basic steps most school districts should already have in place, but steps that deserve to be constantly tweaked and perfect for the safety of all.
Here’s a quick recap of an emergency response plan and the key components of the plan itself:
- Who will carry out specific responsibilities;
- What actions or activities need to occur following an emergency crisis incident;
- When the plan will be activated;
- Where faculty and staff should report;
- Why these actions are necessary to ensure the safety of students, staff and faculty; and
- How the response will be managed during an emergency crisis incident.
(Source: Managing a School Crisis, Using the Standardized Emergency Management System, SEMS. Los Angeles County, Office of Education.)
Preparation is key in any emergency situation and given our school climates today — preparation is necessary. Refer to federal organizations like FEMA and the CDC for additional guidelines and resources for your school emergency preparedness plan.