High-Quality Emergency Operations Planning (EOP)

3.2 Information Gathering

Emergency management differs from most operational activities because it involves the whole school community. Typically, a school’s day-to-day operations occur within each department’s respective “silo”. Financial operations are minimally impacted by what lesson is being taught in the classroom. Transportation operations are rarely influenced by food service operations. While correlations exist between departmental operations, there is little reliance from a day-to-day perspective. During emergencies, however, the interconnected relationships between departments are the driving force behind successful response and recovery operations.

Failures during response and recovery operations often demonstrate a failure in the underlying EOP planning process. Commonly, these failures are a result of unrealistic expectations being placed on staff or faculty. While the EOP may state that a person will accomplish a certain task, that person may be unable to accomplish the task due to policy controls. During the planning process, it is pertinent that the planning team evaluate existing plans, policies, and procedures to ensure that no conflicts between district policy, the law, or procedures exist.

According to FEMA’s Comprehensive Preparedness Guide (CPG) 101, emergency management plans must be integrated both vertically and horizontally. Vertical integration is defined as the meshing of planning both up and down the various levels of both the school and the community. This means that the foundation for operations begins within the school at the campus or even classroom level and that support from the district, local government, state and federal governments, and private sector partners are layered onto the local level. When a support requirement from a “higher level” is identified during the planning process, the two levels work together to resolve the issue.

Horizontal integration ensures that a school’s set of plans supports its neighboring or partner school’s similar sets of plans and integrates operations across the district. Horizontal integration is vital for instances when external resources, particularly those that are local, are needed during a response. For instance, a school cannot include the use of a local Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) or bomb squad into their EOP if, in fact, such a team does not actually exist within the local responding departments. Similarly, the district cannot plan to utilize buses for evacuation of students without first considering the existing policies and procedures of the district’s transportation department.

Evaluating Existing Plans

EOPs are not the only plans that affect long-term development and sustainability of the school district. The livelihood of a district is greatly impacted by a number of other plans that affect the community as a whole. The district’s planning team should be familiar with the following plans that directly affect emergency management programs within a community:

  • District Improvement Plan
  • District Construction or Development Plans
  • Community Economic Development Plan
  • Community Emergency Management Plan
  • Community Hazard Mitigation Action Plan
  • Community Long-Term Recovery Plan
  • Community Debris Management Plan
  • Community Animal Issues Plan (may be included in the local emergency management plan)

Evaluating District Policies and Procedures

District policies and procedures must also be considered and integrated both horizontally and vertically. During emergencies, there may be a need for community notification, interaction with the media, utilization of buses and other transportation assets, or the need to purchase materials or equipment to support response or recovery operations. While an emergency may be ongoing, district personnel are still held accountable to the policies, guidance, and procedures of the district. When developing roles and responsibilities, the planning team should consider those policies and procedures that affect the responsibilities being delegated. These policies and procedures include:

  • Purchasing and Acquisition
  • School Properties Disposal
  • Contracted Services
  • Safety Program/Risk Management
  • Buildings, Grounds, and Equipment Maintenance
  • Equipment and Supplies Management
  • Food Services Management
  • Office Communications
  • Technology Resources
  • Insurance and Annuities Management
  • Facility Standards
  • Personnel
  • Community and Governmental Relations