Emergency and Evacuation Planning Guide for Schools
Responding to a
A crisis can happen at any time, anywhere.
Effective and safe schools are well prepared for any potential crisis. Crisis
response is an important component of an emergency preparedness and risk
communication plan. Two components that should be addressed in that plan are:
In addition to establishing a plan, schools should
provide adequate preparation for their core response team. The team not only
plans what to do when a crisis occurs, but it also ensures that staff and
students know how to behave. Students and staff feel secure because there is a
well-conceived plan and everyone understands what to do or whom to ask for
As with other interventions, crisis intervention
planning is built on a foundation that is safe and responsive to children.
Crisis planning should include:
Training for teachers and staff in a range of skills-from
dealing with classroom situations to responding to a serious crisis.
Reference to district or state procedures. Many states now
have recommended crisis intervention manuals available to their local education
agencies and schools.
Involvement of community agencies, including police, fire,
and rescue, as well as hospital, health, social welfare and mental health
services. The faith-based community, juvenile justice and related family support
systems also have been successfully included in such team plans.
Conditions for the core team to meet regularly to identify
situations that may be dangerous.
School communities also should make a point to
find out about federal, state and local resources that are available to help
during and after a crisis, and to secure their support and involvement before a
Intervening During a
Crisis to Ensure Safety
Bomb threats or explosions, as well as natural
disasters and accidents call for immediate, planned action, and long-term,
post-crisis intervention. Planning for such contingencies reduces chaos and
trauma. Thus, the crisis response part of the plan also must include contingency
provisions. Such provisions may include:
Evacuation procedures and other procedures to protect
students and staff from harm. It is critical that schools identify safe areas
where students and staff should go in a crisis. It also is important that
schools practice having staff and students evacuate the premises in an orderly
An effective, fool-proof communication system. Individuals
must have designated roles and responsibilities to prevent confusion.
A process for securing immediate support from law
enforcement officials and other relevant community agencies.
All provisions and procedures should be monitored
and reviewed regularly by the core team.
Just as staff should understand and practice fire
drill procedures routinely, they should practice responding to bioterrorism,
radiation, chemical and other natural disasters.
School communities can provide staff and students
with such practice in the following ways:
Provide in-service training for all faculty and staff to
explain the plan and exactly what to do in a crisis. Where appropriate, include
community police, youth workers, and other community members.
Produce a written manual or small pamphlet or flip chart to
remind teachers and staff of their duties.
Practice responding to bioterrorism, radiation, chemical
and natural disasters.
Responding in the
Aftermath of Crisis
Members of the crisis team should understand
natural stress reactions. They also should be familiar with how different
individuals might respond to death and loss, including developmental
considerations, religious beliefs and cultural values. Effective schools ensure
a coordinated community response. Professionals both within the school district
and within the greater community should be involved to assist individuals who
are at risk for severe stress reactions.
Schools that have experienced tragedy have
included the following provisions in their response plans:
Help parents understand children's reactions to crisis. In
the aftermath of tragedy, children may experience unrealistic fears of the
future, have difficulty sleeping, become physically ill and be easily
distracted-to name a few of the common symptoms.
Help teachers and other staff deal with their reactions to
the crisis. Debriefing and grief counseling is just as important for adults as
it is for students.
Help students and faculty adjust after the crisis. Provide
both short-term and long-term mental health counseling following a crisis.
Help victims and family members of victims re-enter the
school environment. Often, school friends need guidance in how to act. The
school community should work with students and parents to design a plan that
makes it easier for victims and their classmates to adjust.
A crisis plan must address many complex
contingencies. There should be a step-by-step procedure to use when a crisis
occurs. An example follows:
Assess life/safety issues immediately.
Provide immediate emergency medical care.
Call 911 and notify police/rescue first. Call the
Convene the crisis team to assess the situation and
implement the crisis response procedures.
Evaluate available and needed resources.
Alert school staff to the situation.
Activate the crisis communication procedure and system of
Secure all areas.
Implement evacuation and other procedures to protect
students and staff from harm. Avoid dismissing students to unknown care.
Adjust the bell schedule to ensure safety during the
Alert persons in charge of various information systems to
prevent confusion and misinformation. Notify parents.
Contact appropriate community agencies and the school
district's public information office, if appropriate.
Implement post-crisis procedures.
For more information visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency.