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School Emergency Management: An Overview. Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center Office of Safe and Healthy Students (OSHS) Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) U.S. Department of Education (ED).

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school emergency management an overview

School Emergency Management: An Overview

Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center

Office of Safe and Healthy Students (OSHS)

Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE)

U.S. Department of Education (ED)

school emergency management plan
School Emergency Management Plan

A school emergency management plan

Is the first step to securing our schools;

Addresses a wide range of events (e.g., natural, man-made) that can disrupt teaching and learning; and

Addresses events that occur in and outside of the school day.

key elements of school emergency management plans
Key Elements of School Emergency Management Plans
  • Framed by the four phases
  • Uses an all-hazards approach
  • Tailored to the unique school
  • Developed with community partners
  • Incorporates the Incident Command System (ICS)
  • Communicated as appropriate
  • Practiced consistently
  • Continually reviewed and revised
section 1 introduction summary
Section 1- Introduction Summary
  • What you can do:
    • Review your plan to ensure it includes key elements
    • Contact community partnerships and schedule a meeting
    • Assess and prioritize hazards and risks
    • Plan an exercise or drill aimed at revising your plan
prevention mitigation phase objectives
Prevention-Mitigation Phase:Objectives
  • Define “Prevention” and “Mitigation”
  • Demonstrate how Prevention-Mitigation measures emerge from an assessment
  • Provide sample strategies
prevention mitigation phase
Prevention–Mitigation Phase

Prevention is the action schools and districts take to decrease the likelihood that an event or crisis will occur.

Mitigation actions are steps that eliminate or reduce the loss of life or property damage for events that cannot be prevented.

Many hazards have both and components.

prevention mitigation phase1
Prevention – Mitigation Phase
  • Designed to assess and address
    • Safety and integrity of facilities
    • Security
    • Culture and climate of schools
  • Uses an all-hazards approach
  • Builds on what schools are already doing
  • Reliant on community partnerships and leadership
  • Is an ongoing process
  • Directly linked to the other three phases
prevention and mitigation examples
Prevention and Mitigation Examples

Fencing hazardous areas

Anchoring outdoor equipment

Installing building access control measures

Conducting school vulnerability assessments

Establishing wellness programs

Establishing policies promoting health, safety, and security

crime prevention through environmental design cpted
Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)
  • CPTED is a multi-disciplinary four-strategy approach to deterring criminal behavior and supporting a safe school environment
    • Natural Surveillance
    • Territorial Reinforcement
    • Natural Access Control
    • Target Hardening
example building access and exits
Example: Building Accessand Exits
  • Know who is entering school buildings
  • Lock doors when practical
  • Access cards or coded entry locks
  • Anticipate exit routes during an emergency
example building materials and structures
Example: Building Materialsand Structures

Roofing – structurally sound? Materials fastened securely?

Awnings – will they hold up in a storm?

Outdoor utility connections protected?

prevention mitigation school grounds
Prevention-Mitigation:School Grounds
  • School grounds - buffer between school buildings and the outside world
    • Campus entry points
    • Trees and shrubs around buildings and hidden areas
    • Emergency vehicle access
    • Unsafe equipment
preventing violence school culture and climate
Preventing Violence:School Culture and Climate

Positive culture & climate = Less likelihood of violence

  • Welcoming
  • Connectedness
  • Respect
  • Cooperation
culture and climate assessment
Culture and Climate Assessment

Useful for violence prevention and other important objectives

Culture and climate improvement requires a long-term strategy

Includes program-based solutions, e.g. anti-bullying program

prevention mitigation phase summary
Prevention–Mitigation Phase: Summary
  • What you can do:
    • Work with community partners to conduct an assessment of school buildings, grounds, and surrounding community
    • Develop customized plans and procedures related to assessment outcome
    • Work to improve school culture/climate and implement violence prevention programs
what is the preparedness phase
What is the Preparedness Phase?
  • The Preparedness phase is designed to strengthen the school community by coordinating with community partners through:
  • Developing an emergency plan, policies and protocols
  • Adopting the Incident Command System (ICS)
  • Conducting staff training and drills
  • Goal is to facilitate a rapid, coordinated, and effective response in the event of an emergency
steps for developing an emergency management plan
Steps for Developing an Emergency Management Plan
  • Step 1: Collect existing resources
  • Step 2: Conduct assessments
  • Step 3: Identify gaps and weaknesses
  • Step 4: Assemble plan
steps for developing an emergency management plan1
Steps for Developing an Emergency Management Plan
  • Step 5: Incorporate vulnerability data
  • Step 6: Conduct trainings and exercises
  • Step 7: Revise plans based on outcomes of trainings and exercises
  • Step 8: Disseminate plan to stakeholders
  • Step 9: Establish accountability measures
elements to be addressed in an emergency management plan
Elements to be Addressed in an Emergency Management Plan
  • All-hazards emergency procedures
  • Emergency supplies
  • Incident Command System (ICS)
  • Communication plans
  • Family reunification plans
  • Training and exercises
  • Recovery planning
  • Annual review and revision
persons with disabilities and other access and functional needs
Persons with Disabilities and Other Access and Functional Needs

Include district special needs experts on your planning team to address needs:

Visual and hearing







nims ics

The National Incident Management System (NIMS)

Used by all first responders, at all levels

Creates a common operating picture and mutual goals

Puts forth the Incident Command System (ICS)

The Incident Command System (ICS)

Put forth by NIMS

Uses a single management system

Facilitates effective response

key nims and ics principles
Key NIMS and ICS Principles
  • Emergencies require certain tasks or functions to be performed – ICS provides structure
  • Nature of the incident determines level of ICS activation – ICS is expandable and collapsible
  • Incident command - one incident commander:
    • May vary for different types of incidents
    • May change during incident response
  • Clear, pre-determined responsibilities and reporting lines
  • Uses common terminology and plain language

Incident Commander and Incident Command Team

Liaison Officer

Public Information Officer

Safety Officer




Finance & Administration

Site Security

Insurance Claims


Documentation/ Recorder

Health Services/

First Aid

Food Services


Situation Analysis


Mental Health Response Team

Facility and Materials


Student Supervision

Student/Parent Reunification

emergency management drills
Emergency Management Drills
  • Define frequency, responsibilities and procedures for:
      • Fire evacuation drills
      • Severe weather drills
      • Lockdown drills
  • Include students and staff
  • Use “Curve ball” contingencies
  • Conduct after-action reporting
tabletop exercises
Tabletop Exercises
  • Informal gathering of partners to orally review and practice the emergency plan’s elements
  • Provides an opportunity to
    • Clarify roles of involved parties during an emergency
    • Identify resources needed in an emergency
    • Identify and address gaps that may exist in current plan
    • Build relationships
full scale exercises
Full-Scale Exercises

Requires extensive planning – and a planning team

Conducted in collaboration with community partners including law enforcement and fire personnel

Focuses on specific elements of an emergency scenario

Used to help identify and address gaps that may exist in current plan and identify training needs

take precautions
Take Precautions
  • Ensure everyone involved understands the event is a drill and not an actual incident. 
      • Use Website, community announcements, school communications,
      • Use signs and other notices for observers and passersby or observers
  • Discuss with students before
communication with the media and parents guardians
Communication with the Media and Parents/Guardians

Public Information Officer –reports directly to the Incident Commander responsible for communications during an emergency

Template media statements

Prior communications with parents/guardians

Staff and students

student accountability procedure
Student Accountability Procedure
  • Define in advance how students will be accounted for:
    • Before classes
    • During classes
    • In between classes
    • After classes, and
    • In the case of an emergency
parent guardian reunification procedure
Parent/GuardianReunification Procedure

Need for accurate contact information

Define notification procedures

Need for clear instructions to parents/guardians – photo identification

preparedness phase summary
Preparedness Phase: Summary
  • What you can do:
    • Integrate the Incident Command System
    • Define Response protocols and procedures
    • Address the needs of persons with disabilities
    • Develop communications procedures and templates
    • Develop student accountability procedures
    • Develop reunification procedures
    • Practice tabletops, drills, and full-scale exercises
what is the response phase
What is the Response Phase?
  • When emergency management plans are activated to effectively contain and resolve an emergency
    • Activate the Plan
    • Deploy Resources
    • Activate Communications Plan
    • Work with Community Partners/First Responders
    • Account for Students and Staff
    • Make Informed Decisions
key elements of response
Key Elements of Response
  • Activate the plan and the ICS
  • Work with first responders and other community partners
  • Assess of the problem and determine response
  • Deploy resources and make informed decisions
  • Account for students, faculty, and staff
  • Reunify parents/guardians with students
  • Initiate transition to the Recovery Phase
  • Conduct an after-action assessment as a tool for learning and improvement
response actions
Response Actions
  • During an emergency, there are three primary responses:
    • Evacuation
    • Lockdown
    • Shelter-in-place
  • Each response decision will depend on the specifics and the severity of the situation
response actions evacuation
Response Actions: Evacuation

Use when locations outside the school are safer than inside the school

Identify multiple evacuation routes in coordination with community partners

Determine how teachers will account for students

Ensure teachers, staff members, and administrators have appropriate “Go-kits”

response actions lockdown
Response Actions: Lockdown

Use when there is an immediate threat of violence in, or immediately around, the school.

Lock all exterior doors, if safe to do so

Ensure public safety officials can enter the building

Follow predetermined policy about closing blinds, turning off lights, and using status cards

Move all staff and students to an area not visible from windows or doors

response actions shelter in place
Response Actions: Shelter-in-Place

Use when students and staff must remain indoors during an extended period of time

Close all windows and turn off all heating and air conditioning systems

Plan for interrupted class schedules with substitute activities

Provide accommodations for eating, sleeping and personal hygiene

Have staff activate family emergency plans

response communications
Response Communications
  • Messages to students and staff (plain language vs. codes, use of placards)
  • Messages to parents
  • Discourage external cellular communications by students and staff during emergencies


post incident review
Post-Incident Review
  • “Hot wash” vs. After-action reviews
    • Hot wash: A brief meeting shortly after an event intended to capture immediate impressions or explanations of actions.
    • After-action review: A thorough debrief and evaluation approximately a week following an event to capture key lessons learned from emergency response and make recommendations for improvements.
response phase summary
Response Phase: Summary
  • What you need to do during Response:
    • Activate the ICS
    • Coordinate with first responders
    • Adapt to an evolving situation
    • Decide on Response strategies
    • Account for students – reunify with parents/guardians
    • Communicate with parents/guardians and the media
recovery phase
Recovery Phase
  • Designed to assist students, staff, and their families in the healing process and to restore educational operations in schools.
  • Has four primary components:
    • Physical/structural recovery
    • Business/fiscal recovery
    • Restoration of the learning environment
    • Psychological/emotional recovery
  • Connected to other phases
  • Uses an all-hazards approach
  • Supported with community partners
physical and structural recovery
Physical and Structural Recovery
    • Physical/structural recovery addresses
    • Assessment and repair of facilities
    • Possible need for alternative sites or buildings due to extensive damage
  • Business and fiscal recovery addresses
    • Payroll and financial systems
    • Student registration systems
    • Record Management
academic recovery
Academic Recovery
  • Academics – the primary purpose of schools
  • Important in restoring normalcy in the school environment
  • Close link to Physical and Structural Recovery Strategies:
      • Doubling up classes
      • Utilizing portable classrooms and community buildings
      • Distance learning
  • Emotional recovery can also greatly impact academic recovery
what is psychological emotional recovery
What is Psychological/Emotional Recovery?

Purpose: Promote coping and support resiliency for students and staff following an emergency

Key steps to take with community partners:

  • Recognize factors that may impact recovery
  • Provide Psychological First Aid
  • Establish a system for identifying and monitoring children and staff who may need additional support
  • Develop short- and long-term interventions as needed

Adjustment Over Time in Crisis

A = baseline functioning

B = event

C = vulnerable state

D = usual coping mechanisms fail

E = helplessness, hopelessness

F = improved functioning

G = continued impairment (PTS)

H = return to baseline

I = post-traumatic growth










why psychological first aid
Why Psychological First Aid?

When bad things happen children and adolescents are the most vulnerable victims.

“The day before I started high school my mom found my brother and his wife, dead.”

“There was a man who had a gun and ran into our school. We had to put the school on lockdown.”

“The water came through the house and I was drowning, and I didn’t see my parents nowhere.”

how do some adults deal with child trauma
How Do Some Adults Deal with Child Trauma?
  • “I don’t know what to say and I’m afraid I’ll make it worse”
  • Resulting Student Perceptions:
    • “I had a couple teachers that did not get the point at all.”
    • “I don’t really talk to them because they don’t know where I’m coming from, like nobody understands my pain.”
how do students deal with trauma
How Do Students Deal with Trauma?

“Sometimes I talk to some of my teachers because I have my favorites, they ones I feel comfortable talking to.”

with psychological first aid
With Psychological First Aid?

Every Adult On Campus

Plays an Important Role

the responsibility of caring adults
The Responsibility of Caring Adults

Psychological First Aid after School Crises

  • Listen
  • Protect
  • Connect
  • Model
  • Teach
recovery phase summary
Recovery Phase – Summary

What you can do:

  • Inventory assets and estimate replacement values
  • Assess damages using a damage assessment team; effectively manage reparations
  • Partner with mental health resources in the community; make counseling available
  • Identify/implement creative alternatives to continue learning
rems ta center
REMS TA Center

For additional information, resources and technical assistance, please contact the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center

Phone: (855) 781-7367 (REMS)