Reunification is the process of bringing together displaced students with their parents or guardians. While it’s most often associated with active shooter scenarios, reunification is a critical protocol for any situation where a school building is rendered unsafe. A well-orchestrated and rehearsed school reunification plan is crucial for natural disasters, fire, chemical hazards, and violent acts of any type. And the benefits of that plan go far beyond pairing students with caregivers in a moment of need. There is psychological evidence that a smooth reunification process can make students less likely to experience emotional issues following a traumatic event.
Developing and implementing a process for reunification can be a daunting effort. And it’s important to remember that reunification software, like the Reunification module within NaviGate Prepared, is a tool to facilitate the process. It is not the plan.
That’s why we’ve built this toolkit—to guide you through a three-phase, iterative approach to reunification planning. We’ve assembled a number of resources, guidelines, and tools that can help you throughout the process of developing a plan tailored to your unique school, staff, and students.
Plan: Identify what’s needed
While your school may have a safety plan in place, it most likely does not address the nuances of scenarios that warrant reunification. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all school reunification plan, because no two school communities look the same. But a wide range of materials has been published that can inform the development of a customized plan for your school.
We’ve assembled some particularly useful resources that can help you shape your plan at a high level. We encourage you to review them and lean on the ones that best fit your unique school situation.
Key questions to ask yourself as you build your school reunification plan:
- Do you have separate entrances for parents coming in, students coming in, and exiting reunified parties?
- Are you releasing students to anyone on the emergency contact form or only parents/ guardians?
- Where are you directing media when they arrive at your site?
Download PLAN Resources
Prepare: Create tools that empower
Once your school’s reunification plan has been documented, the next step is equipping checkers, runners and other key players with the resources they need to successfully implement that plan.
NaviGate Prepared’s Reunification module may be one component of the toolkit you’ll assemble to support your plan—and it plays an important role in facilitating communication and information sharing between your team members. Keep in mind that while technology can help keep team members organized, there are parts of the reunification process that may be best implemented on paper. Parents, for example, may find more comfort in having a form in hand. We’ve assembled a few simple tools and expert resources to help you prepare for implementation of your reunification plan.
Key questions to ask yourself as you create your school reunification toolkit:
- Do you have forms already printed for parents to fill out and sign when they arrive?
- Do you have access to your emergency contact forms off-site?
- Has your go-box been put together?
Download PLAN Resources
Practice: Test to learn and optimize
No plan is flawless, and practicing provides the best opportunity to identify pain points and make modifications. Just like any other element of your school’s safety plan, reunification should be practiced with some frequency to keep process top of mind and ensure new staff and students are familiar with protocol.
While practice may seem daunting, it is scalable. We’ve created a tiered approach to reunification drill practice that can help you more easily introduce it into your overall emergency preparation.
Phase 1 – Staff Only (Table top)
Phase 2 – Staff Only (Props)
Phase 3 – Staff Only (On location with props)
Phase 4 – Staff, Students, Parents, Transportation, First Responders, Media (On location)
Key questions to ask yourself when preparing for school reunification drills:
- Does your staff know how to use radios?
- Are there Wi-Fi challenges anywhere within your reunification site?
- Who is in charge if leaders of your response team can’t be present?