As we talk about a lot here at MemberHub, good school communications are essential to student learning, parent involvement, a fun learning environment, and more. But when you’re dealing with a crisis situation, having a good emergency preparedness plan (including a well-thought-out communications component) is absolutely imperative.
The thing about emergencies, of course, is that there’s often little if any warning or lead time. So the time to develop your school emergency preparedness plan is now.
You need to publicize it regularly and keep it updated, as well as run the appropriate drills, but once you’ve got it in place, you have the peace of mind of knowing it’s there should you ever need it. A detailed emergency preparedness plan is something the parents at your school really appreciate, too.
So where to begin?
Here are some tips, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education:
The first step is Mitigation and Prevention—proactive planning to decrease the chances of an emergency happening in the first place:
- Connect with community emergency responders to identify local hazards.
- Review the last safety audit to examine school buildings and grounds.
- Determine who is responsible for overseeing violence prevention strategies in your school.
- Encourage staff to provide input and feedback during the crisis planning process.
- Review incident data.
- Determine major problems in your school with regard to student crime and violence.
- Assess how the school addresses these problems.
- Conduct an assessment to determine how these problems—as well as others—may impact your vulnerability to certain crises.
The second step is Preparedness. Good planning will facilitate a rapid, coordinated, effective response if a crisis occurs:
- Determine what crisis plans exist in the district, school, and community.
- Identify all stakeholders involved in crisis planning.
- Develop procedures for communicating with staff, students, families, and the media.
- Establish procedures to account for students during a crisis.
- Gather information about the school facility, such as maps and the location of utility shutoffs.
- Identify the necessary equipment that needs to be assembled to assist staff in a crisis.
Should a crisis occur, Response is when you execute your crisis plan and make use of your preparations:
- Determine if a crisis is occurring.
- Identify the type of crisis that is occurring and determine the appropriate response.
- Activate the incident management system.
- Ascertain whether an evacuation, reverse evacuation, lockdown, or shelter-in-place needs to be implemented.
- Maintain communication among all relevant staff at officially designated locations.
- Establish what information needs to be communicated to staff, students, families, and the community.
- Monitor how emergency first aid is being administered to the injured.
- Decide if more equipment and supplies are needed.
Finally, post-crisis, Recovery is when the return to learning and restoration of your infrastructure occurs:
- Strive to return to learning as quickly as possible.
- Restore the physical plant, as well as the school community.
- Monitor how staff are assessing students for the emotional impact of the crisis.
- Identify what follow up interventions are available to students, staff, and first responders.
- Conduct debriefings with staff and first responders.
- Assess curricular activities that address the crisis.
- Allocate appropriate time for recovery.
- Plan how anniversaries of events will be commemorated.
- Capture “lessons learned” and incorporate them into revisions and trainings.
For more info, you can download the Department of Education’s complete Crisis Planning Guide here.
We sincerely hope you never need to execute on your emergency plan—but it’s always important to be prepared.
MemberHub Offers Text Messaging
One of the things we’re most proud of here at MemberHub is offering schools the technology to broadcast important alerts to the entire school community on a moment’s notice, helping to keep parents informed and students and staff safe. If you’ve got any questions about how it works, we’d love to talk to you anytime. Just call or drop a line at your convenience.