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How to Create a Comprehensive Emergency Preparation Plan for Schools, District-Wide

School districts need to be prepared for emergencies. Having a comprehensive emergency preparation plan in place can greatly reduce the risk of harm to staff and students from natural or man-made threats. A district-wide emergency preparation plan is more than just a good idea; oftentimes, it’s the law. In fact, as of 2019, at least 43 states and the District of Columbia require a school safety plan in statute or regulation. Your district’s emergency preparation plan should address the findings of school site risk assessments or security audits and include beginning-to-end guidance for students, teachers, and school personnel for responding to a variety of crisis scenarios, such as fires, natural disasters, an active shooter, and a pandemic. Your plan should also be reviewed and updated annually.

Here’s how to create a comprehensive emergency preparation plan that will instill confidence in school personnel, students, and parents in your district and meet state and federal guidelines:

Form a District Emergency Planning Team

The first step toward creating a district-wide emergency preparation plan is to form a team comprising a range of school personnel, including administrators, teachers, school psychologists/counselors, and nurses. It should also include community partners such as law enforcement officials, emergency medical services personnel, and school resource officers (SRO).

Once your team is assembled, begin drafting policies and procedures that meet state requirements and the specific needs of your school district. These policies and procedures should guide individual schools on how to form and support their own emergency planning teams. Assign roles and responsibilities to stakeholders and set up a regular meeting schedule.

Perform School Site Risk Assessments & Security Audits

Before creating an emergency preparation plan, planning teams should assess the current situation of the district: Are there gaps in safety and security? What are the safety risks of each building? Are their emergency response and security protocols compliant with state requirements? Hire a certified risk assessment specialist, like an ASIS-certified Physical Security Professional (PSP), to identify the secure, vulnerable, and dangerous areas of each of your schools. With this information, prioritize risks within your emergency preparation plan and make critical security updates to correct issues before they become hazardous.

Risks can include natural disasters posed by the local environment, poor security features at a school, and even the physical condition of the school building itself. A school security audit checklist will help you take action to mitigate risk and ensure compliance across your district.

Once your team is assembled, begin drafting policies and procedures that meet state requirements and the specific needs of your school district. These policies and procedures should guide individual schools on how to form and support their own emergency planning teams. Assign roles and responsibilities to stakeholders and set up a regular meeting schedule.

Help Schools Develop Comprehensive School Emergency Operations Plans (EOP)

As the leader of your district, support schools in developing EOPs for each threat revealed by the risk assessment and as required by law. EOPs should determine a course of action for school personnel and how quickly they need to respond. When implementing an EOP, ensure individual roles and responsibilities are assigned and understood by all stakeholders. Examples of emergency response actions that can be outlined in an EOP for key roles within a school include:

Principal/Administrator

As the leader of the school, the administrator is responsible for the overall safety of students and staff. They should take the necessary steps put in place by the EOP, which can include coordinating evacuation, organizing sheltering in place, and communicating with law enforcement, emergency services personnel, and you as the superintendent.

Teachers

Teachers are responsible for their students and should direct them appropriately when receiving emergency alerts over the intercom or other official methods of communication as outlined by the EOP. Transferring students inside or outside, taking attendance after each move, and reporting missing students to the administrator are all essential actions for teachers during an emergency.

Psychologists/Counselors

School psychologists and counselors can help with the overall action plan as the situation necessitates, including helping teachers relocate students and rendering first aid if needed.

Nurses

Nurses and other health professionals can administer first aid, supervise others who have the medical training to provide it, and keep medical supplies organized.

School Resource Officers and Law Enforcement Officials

A School Resource Officer is employed with a law enforcement agency and serves as a resource for a school district. SROs are key to ensuring collaboration and communication between districts and law enforcement community partners.

Considerations for Compliance

Emergency preparation plans must comply with state regulations, which may include:

Completing School Safety Audits

Comprehensive risk assessments and school security safety checklists should be performed every year to identify new threats that may have arisen. Currently, 13 states and the District of Columbia require school safety audits.

Running Safety Drills

Conducting regular safety drills in the new school year is vital, as it trains incoming students and new hires in proper emergency response and retrains those who are returning to the school. It is also important to run a variety of safety drills in response to different threats, such as severe weather, intruders, and school violence. Currently, 42 states require safety or security drills, typically monthly or annually.

In addition to these state requirements, emergency preparation plans must comply with:

Conduct District-Wide Emergency Plan Training & Regular Reviews

When you have created and implemented a district-wide emergency plan that complies with the above requirements, continue to hold regular meetings with all stakeholders at least once a year to practice the responses outlined in the plan. Training exercises can include visiting evacuation sites, running on-campus drills during the school day, engaging with small groups for tabletop discussions, and simulating emergency events. Establish a cadence for getting your planning team together to review the current EOP and make any necessary revisions. Finally, be sure that all members of your school district, including staff and students, have ongoing access to the most up-to-date plan.

How We Can Help

Equipping your district with a comprehensive emergency preparation plan can mitigate risk and the potential for harm. Navigate360’s School Emergency Management Suite (EMS) helps superintendents reinforce the culture of safety within their district by ensuring staff and students are prepared for any emergency while eliminating compliance risks. This cloud-based technology features built-in state-based templates and drill scenarios, allows you to create and complete school security audit checklists, and provides real-time access to your plan for all stakeholders. Navigate360 EMS can be accessed anywhere, any time, and on nearly any device.

For more information about how Navigate360 EMS empowers superintendents to develop, document, and implement comprehensive, district-wide emergency preparation plans, contact us today.

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