High-Quality Emergency Operations Planning (EOP)
5.1 Fill-in-the-Blank and Narrative Responses
In Section 1.4, the Texas School Safety Center provided several templates to assist planning teams in developing a high-quality EOP. In this section, we revisit these templates to discuss the differences in documenting the team’s efforts using narrative and fill-in-the-blank responses.
You can refer to the TxSSC Basic Plan template to see both types of responses that are requested:
Fill-in-the-blank responses are designed to encourage the planning team to identify a specific resource, facility, or individual. A fill-in-the-blank response limits the planning team's ability to provide lengthy responses for the sake of ensuring that appropriate areas of the EOP are directive, rather than directive, rather than descriptive, in nature.
In the excerpt above, taken from the TxSSC Basic EOP template, the four fill-in-the-blank response areas are intended to ensure that the planning team accurately and adequately identifies the resources necessary to establish emergency communications within the district. A school district that utilizes email, landline, cellular, and emergency notification systems to communicate emergency messages with their faculty, students, and community would ensure that all of these resources are listed.
The use of fill-in-the-blank responses ensures that the level of specificity necessary for an EOP to be considered high-quality exists. However, the planning team should understand that while fill-in-the-blank responses are designed to be limiting in nature, much flexibility exists within the template itself.
Best Practices for Fill-in-the-Blank Responses:
- Even though a single blank exists, the planning team should consider if more than one resource exists to address the need, capacity, or function. If so, all appropriate resources should be listed.
- The inclusion of a blank does not ensure that the surrounding text adequately portrays the needs and considerations of the district or campus. While extreme care has been placed in developing the most viable templates for emergency planning, the planning team should evaluate all context to ensure that the district’s or campus’ actual needs are met.
Narrative responses are designed to encourage the planning team to describe a specific process, capability, or course of action. A narrative response enables the planning team to provide lengthy responses for the sake of ensuring that appropriate areas of the EOP are descriptive and define the method by which the district or campus will mitigate, prepare, respond, or recover based on a function, threat, or hazard.
In the excerpt above, taken from the TxSSC Basic EOP template, the four response areas are intended to ensure that the planning team accurately and adequately identifies an individual or department responsible for carrying out defined actions. In this case, the planning team might designate that Food Service conduct additional responsibilities to respond to or recover from the impact of a threat or hazard.
The use of narrative responses ensures that all appropriate processes, functions, and responsibilities are adequately described. As with fill-in-the-blank responses, the planning team should understand that the context of wording around the narrative response area should be carefully considered.
Best Practices for Narrative Responses:
- While narrative responses allow a near unlimited length of response, the planning team should consider as to how much detail should be entered. For extremely lengthy responses, the planning team may determine that a supporting document would be more appropriate to contain the wording. High-quality EOPs drive action, but lengthy responses drive stagnation.
- The planning team should consider what context to provide with each response. Remember that personnel should be trained on the EOP, and standard operating procedures or policies commonly drive the responsibilities delegated within the EOP. References may be made to these SOPs or policies rather than rewriting them within the EOP.