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How to Prepare Schools District-Wide for All Hazard Emergencies

Emergencies can happen anytime and anywhere. From severe weather like hurricanes to violent threats like active assailants, school districts need to be prepared. But planning shouldn’t be left to each individual school; preparation for all-hazard emergencies should be district-wide. Consistency across schools helps all stakeholders better understand emergency plans and protocols – such as an emergency response plan for a bomb threat or de-escalation strategy for an active assailant – and how to respond to these threats.

De-Escalation Strategies for Surviving a School Shooting

Since 1970, the United States has experienced over 1,300 school shootings. Still, many people tend to have the “it can’t happen here” mentality. Furthermore, students are not confident about their school’s safety: Only about a third (35%) of teens think their school’s leadership knows how to respond to ensure minimal casualties and loss of life, according to a 2021 survey. To foster a safe school climate, schools need to be prepared for the rare but real possibility of an active assailant threat. Implementing an active shooter response training program into an overarching, comprehensive Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) can help save the lives of students, staff, and faculty and prevent a school from becoming another unfortunate statistic.

ALICE Training ® from Navigate360 is a widely adopted, effective method of active shooter response training. ALICE ensures that all members of your school district, including staff and students, receive training that is specific to their needs, age and abilities, empowering them to take an active response role in a school shooting situation.

Active Shooter Response

While an active shooter situation is a traumatic event, training to survive shouldn’t be. Training for an event like this can be traumatizing for individuals who have previously experienced traumatic events: research shows that one in four students in every classroom is dealing with trauma in some way. Therefore, it’s crucial that safety training and simulations utilize a trauma-informed approach, teaching people what to do when confronted with a critical threat while meeting their physical, social, and emotional needs.

ALICE Training ® is an active shooter preparedness solution that helps individuals understand how to proactively respond to violent situations without re-traumatizing them. As an alternative to the outdated lockdown-only approach, ALICE uses trauma-informed practices through a multi-option response approach. These responses are represented by each letter in ALICE:

  • Alert – Becoming aware of the threat. Alert can be overcoming denial, recognizing signs, and understanding that you’re in danger.
  • Lockdown – In some scenarios, enhanced lockdown may be the preferable option. For example, if it is not safe to evacuate, barricade any entry points into the room you’re in.
  • Inform – Communicating information in as real-time as possible about the intruder. This can be done through video surveillance, 911 calls, PA announcements, and other channels.
  • Counter – Counter focuses on actions that create noise, movement, distance, and distraction with the intent of reducing the intruder’s ability to shoot accurately. Counter is NOT fighting.
  • Evacuate – Evacuating to a safe area takes people out of harm’s way and hopefully prevents civilians from having to come into any contact with the shooter.

This robust approach to active shooter response is crucial because every threat is unique. The traditional, passive lockdown-only response may not always keep people safe and is no longer the preferred response of federal and state agencies. Active shooter response training like ALICE provides students and staff with various effective response options so they are knowledgeable about how to react to a range of active shooter situations.

School Shooting Aftermath

After a traumatic event like a school shooting, students are vulnerable to mental health consequences such as grief, survivor’s guilt, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Because of this, it is critical that students and survivors have ongoing support available to them. Navigate360’s Emergency Management Suite provides the resources for proper training for school districts to address these mental health consequences of mass shootings and help students work through the aftermath.

Bomb Threat Response Procedures

Another emergency that school districts can face is a bomb threat. These threats can be made for various reasons, whether to divert attention away from an actual and potentially more serious crime, to test the initial response of the school system, or to draw targets out into the open. Many school bomb threats have unfortunately been made by students seeking to disrupt the school day and get out of school. These threats can be handwritten in notes or on bathroom walls or sent electronically via text or the internet. However they’re made, all threats must be treated seriously and thoroughly investigated, and managed. EMS helps school districts develop bomb threat emergency response plans, ensuring that faculty, staff, and students know proper bomb threat response procedures.

Severe Weather Plans for Schools

Not all emergencies are manmade; severe weather and natural disasters can also pose a safety risk to students, staff, and school property. Just like active assailant and bomb threats, a severe weather emergency action plan is necessary to ensure safety. A severe weather plan should be developed based on national guidelines, regional considerations, and factors specific to your school. There should be a specific plan in place for each form of severe weather, such as tornadoes, extreme heat, hurricanes, and flash flooding. Site mapping and floorplans are critical to determining appropriate, safe shelter areas during extreme weather and natural disasters, as well as to provide first responders and emergency personnel with location information ahead of and during the emergency. Severe weather and natural disaster safety plans should also consider communication and response plans for school personnel outside of school grounds, such as bus drivers.

A Comprehensive Solution for Emergency Response

While it can be hard to imagine your school district experiencing an emergency, it is important to prepare for the rare but possible chance of one (or more) occurring. Forming an emergency operations plan doesn’t have to be a difficult process or fall to the responsibility of one person in a silo. The Emergency Management Suite from Navigate360 can help prepare school districts for the unthinkable. This comprehensive safety solution helps school personnel plan for an emergency by facilitating:

  • real-time communication and information sharing with law enforcement and first responders,
  • student accountability,
  • safety drills and response scenario management,
  • interactive site maps and floorplans,
  • reunification plans,
  • documentation for state and federal compliance,
  • and other components.

Give every school in your district peace of mind by equipping them with an all-hazards emergency response by using Navigate360’s Emergency Management Suite and ALICE Training ®.

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