High-Quality Emergency Operations Planning (EOP)

3.1 Threat and Hazard Analysis

The need for an EOP exists only because there is risk of a threat or hazard impacting the school community. Today, there is not a school district in Texas that is free from risk. Locale, industrial development, climate, politics, and many more characteristics of a community determine the threats and hazards faced by school districts. To effectively plan for emergencies, the planning team must understand the threats and hazards faced by the school and surrounding community. A high-quality EOP is a multi-hazard EOP which adequately addresses the commonalities and unique considerations among the various threats and hazards faced by a district, its facilities, and its community.

Types of Threats and Hazards

Threats and hazards are typically categorized as being either natural, technological, or intentional in nature. Natural hazards are events occurring as results from naturally-occurring events, such as tornados and floods. Technological hazards involve accidents or failures of manmade structures or systems. Examples of technological hazards include dam failure, train derailment, and vehicle accident. Intentional threats are adversarial actions conducted intentionally to cause harm to life, information, operations, the environment, or property. Examples of intentional threats include active shooter attack and explosive device detonation. The distinctive difference between threats and hazards is that threats are directed at an entity, asset, system, network, or geographic area, while a hazard is not directed.

Identifying Threats and Hazards

Assessing risk begins with the identification of those threats and hazards that can affect the school. The planning team should establish a list of threats and hazards that they know exist within their community. This list can be expanded upon by local and county emergency managers, law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and emergency medical services. Local community groups may also assist in expanding the list of potential threats and hazards. These groups include the local chapter of the American Red Cross and Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs). An excellent resource for schools when determining potential threats and hazards is the local community’s Hazard Mitigation Action Plan. This document is typically maintained by the city or county and includes extensive research as to the risks and threats facing the community.

Weather event history can be found for the community using the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Events Database. The database contains all reported storm data for the United States since 1953. The data is searchable by event type and community. Information provided by the database includes the number of events of a particular type and the date and time of occurrence, as well as crop damages, property damages, injuries, and deaths associated with each event.

NOAA Storm Events Database

Evaluating Risk

Once threats and hazards have been identified by the district’s planning team, each threat or hazard must be evaluated for risk. Risk is a multifaceted perception of a threat or hazard that guides the prioritization of planning activities and capability development throughout the district. Risk encompasses:

  • The probability that a specific threat or hazard will occur
  • The effects that a specific threat or hazard will have when it does occur, including severity of impact
  • The amount of time the district will have to warn students, staff, and its community about the threat or hazard
  • The duration of the threat or hazard

Knowledge of the risk each threat or hazard poses allows the planning team to address those threats or hazards that are unique to the district or a specific campus and identify the vulnerabilities of each facility and its occupants. Vulnerability is defined as the characteristics of the school that could make it more susceptible to an identified threat or hazard. Vulnerabilities within a district may be related to structures, equipment, systems (such as information technology or electrical), grounds, or surrounding areas. Vulnerabilities and risk are evaluated using assessments.

Assessments

Assessments provide context to the threats and hazards faced by the district, its facilities, and its community. Assessments, such as those identified below, demonstrate the likelihood of impact, the vulnerability of facilities or populations, and the abilities of the district when responding to the impact of a threat or hazard. The most successful assessments are conducted by a diverse team. Support staff, first responders, students, parents, and individuals with access and/or functional needs should be included when possible and appropriate. Assessments are strategic in nature and, therefore, you must consider locality and isolation, as well as response time, based on the campus or asset rather than district-wide. The most common types of assessment used when assessing risk and vulnerability are demonstrated in the following table:

Information obtained from the various assessments allows the planning team to identify unique issues that must be addressed at specific locations or times and ensures that threats and hazards are prioritized appropriately. The risk assessment worksheet below will assist the planning team in prioritizing threats and hazards by using a comparative methodology to determine which threats and hazards have the highest probability of occurrence, greatest impact to life and property, least amount of warning time, and longest duration of impact.

Upon completion of the risk assessment worksheet, the planning team is able to easily recognize which threats and hazards require immediate focus. Furthermore, a completed risk assessment helps the planning team evaluate whether the established goals are practical and reasonable. Often, planning teams will recognize the need to alter or add additional goals for the team based on the data-driven results of the risk assessment.

Risk Assessment Worksheet