School Safety and Security Standards Toolkit

1.0 Four Phases of Emergency Management

Mitigation/Prevention is any action taken to reduce the loss of life or damage to property from any hazard or threat. Campus-based examples of mitigation/prevention include planning, training, drilling, access control procedures, and conducting safety and security audits. School officials should take steps to reduce the likelihood that people or property will be harmed when disaster strikes. For example, if a school is located in a flood zone, officials can ensure that valuable material is kept from low-lying areas. School administrators should consider the location of special student or staff populations, such as those who have disabilities, to ensure that they are not situated near potentially dangerous or inaccessible areas of the school building. Safety planning efforts should involve the school custodian or maintenance director. Typically this person has the "full run" of the building and can provide valuable insight into changes that could be made to the school's physical structure to make it safer.

Preparedness is building capability to respond more effectively and recover from emergency incidents. Campus-based examples of preparedness include developing and implementing a Multi-Hazard Emergency Operation Plan, drills and exercises, establishing memorandums of understanding, and identifying staff skills. Preparedness builds the emergency management function to respond effectively to and recover from any hazard that cannot be mitigated. District, campus, local emergency management, law enforcement, health, and mental health professionals should be involved in developing emergency protocols. Written agreements should be drafted, such as Memoranda of Understanding or Cooperative Working Agreements, which clearly delineate the roles of both emergency responders and district/campus officials during an emergency. Districts should work closely with health providers and volunteer organizations to develop lists of their available resources before a disaster strikes. Knowledge of available human resources and stocks of equipment can save precious time during an emergency.

Frequent emergency drills, using pre-determined and appropriate protocols, should be conducted to reduce the possibility that students and staff may become victims in an emergency, and to ensure that responses are well executed. Frequent drills help ensure that staff and students know what their responsibilities are during any type of emergency. Parents should be made aware of general procedures of emergency operation plans (e.g. reunification plan) at their child’s campus. In an emergency, their knowledge of the general emergency procedures and protocol can help reduce confusion, panic, and perhaps serious injury.

Response puts preparedness plans into action during actual emergencies. Campus-based examples of response include warning systems, Standard Operating Guidelines/Procedures, Incident Command System (ICS), and student accountability and reunification procedures. In an emergency situation, emergency responders must be aware of the overall makeup and population of the school or junior college. A response must always take into consideration the ages and mental health of students and staff, as well as their physical abilities and limitations. Emergency responders must also be aware of the physical layout of buildings. Districts should provide responders with confidential access to floor plans. Having this information readily available for first responders can influence critical decisions that will determine the course of action over the next several hours. Schools must be part of the big picture throughout the response phase and beyond. Schools must become familiar with ICS, the system that emergency responders use to manage crises that require a multi-agency response. This system unifies terminology, structure, objectives, and functions and ensures that there is one central chain of command with information flowing smoothly. A student/parent reunification plan is a vital response component for school districts. If the parent/student reunion process does not function smoothly and with confidence, the perception of parents will be that there is chaos on the campus. Plans should consist of:

  1. Student information forms by alpha in a portable box.
  2. Clearly identified staff members that will be a part of the student/parent reunion team.
  3. A reunification area separate from emergency responders, parents and press (include a check-in area/gate).
  4. Supplies necessary to effectively implement the reunification plan.
  5. Specialized training for staff members that are a part of the reunification team.
  6. Education for parents, media/press, and the community on the parent/student reunification process ahead of time.
  7. Drills and exercises that practice the plan at an off-campus relocation site as well as at the home campus.

Recovery is returning systems and activities to normal after an incident. Campus-based examples of recovery include prescreened community resources, psychological and behavioral health resources, and alternative locations to hold classes. Districts should begin the process of returning systems and activities to normal as soon as possible. Some recovery activities may be concurrent with response efforts. When developing a response plan, it must be considered that emergency situations impact the entire community. Therefore, plans must consider all adults and children throughout the community. Efforts to return the district to normal after a disaster must be carefully timed and coordinated to meet the needs of both students and staff. Districts should work with qualified professionals to assess the emotional needs of students and staff and arrange for counseling and other appropriate interventions. The preparedness phase of emergency management directly supports the recovery process. Therefore, districts should assemble lists of qualified mental health professionals and community organizations during the preparedness phase, so they will be available and pre-screened to help in the recovery phase as soon as needed. In addition, school and health care officials should have resources available to help school children cope with disaster anniversary dates or memorials. School buildings may incur considerable damage during an event such as a hurricane or a tornado. Districts should be prepared for the possibility of the need to relocate staff and students to alternate sites while repairs are made. Some districts have developed plans to have schools function in dual shifts, thereby splitting the school day in half. This decreases the chance for the school environment to become overwhelmed. There are additional recovery needs that must be considered in educational institutions. Unique requirements include, the resumption of classes after school or community incidents, the location classes resume if the campus structure is a crime scene and/or structurally damaged, the vital/confidential records or documents that might have been lost, and arrangements for students missing school due to the emergency to still graduate/pass, among many other that are district and campus specific (i.e. continuity of operations).