High-Quality Emergency Operations Planning (EOP)

6.1 Training on the Plan

A high-quality EOP will only serve its purpose if personnel and stakeholders throughout the district understand their roles and responsibilities. The EOP in its entirety relies on the individuals affected by the impact of a hazard or threat being able to respond appropriately based on the practices and processes identified within the EOP. For this to occur, these individuals MUST be trained on the EOP.

Creating a Safety-oriented School Culture

Training on the EOP must be a priority throughout the district. It is the responsibility of senior leadership within the district to create an environment that promotes safety and the development of functions and abilities that ensure that students, personnel, and visitors are kept as safe as possible, even when a threat or hazard occurs. This organizational culture serves as the foundation to future training on the EOP.

Past experience and common practices demonstrate the importance of ensuring that personnel, students, and visitors understand their roles during an emergency or catastrophic event. Think about the fire drills conducted in your school. District personnel should understand what their roles are when the building must be quickly evacuated. Teachers are responsible for evacuating their classrooms. Office staff are responsible for gathering pertinent records and evacuating their offices. Nursing staff are responsible for gathering medical records and medications.

What about the students? How do the students know what is expected of them in the event of a fire or other cause for evacuation? They are instructed on what actions to take by their teachers or other staff. They are exposed to multiple opportunities to practice the necessary courses of action in a low-stress, no-fault environment. As a result of these opportunities, deaths resulting from fires in schools have plummeted, according to data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System.

Clearly, there is a need for both training and exercising the functions of the EOP. The better question is how can we reach our faculty, staff, students, and visitors to train them on the EOP and its functions?

A Practical Approach to Emergency Management Training in Schools

Throughout this toolkit, several online training opportunities have been provided. These courses typically provide a high-level overview of the various roles, responsibilities, and capabilities addressed by comprehensive emergency management programs. These courses do not, however, address the intricacies of the district’s high-quality EOP. Some districts have chosen to establish personnel policies requiring employees to complete the FEMA NIMS and ICS online courses. This approach is effective, and recommended as a best practice, to establish a baseline understanding of emergency operations. Still, it falls short in effectively educating employees on the specific details provided within the district’s EOP.

Job aids are an effective tool to better educate employees on the EOP. Throughout the EOP, many roles and responsibilities are shared for certain groupings of employees. For instance, most teachers will share similar responsibilities during emergencies. These responsibilities can be used to create a job aid (such as a checklist or guidebook) that quickly informs the employee as to what they are expected to accomplish during an emergency.

Schools typically rely on the teaching staff to educate parents, students, and visitors about the correct response to emergencies. Again, we return to the example of fire drills that are commonly found in schools throughout Texas. The teachers have informed students of what actions to take. The students have exercised their ability to perform these actions through their participation in fire drills. In this example, the students have learned their roles and responsibilities through an informal training approach.