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Responding to Critical Incidents in Schools. A Behavioral Health Plan October 22, 2010 Paul Deignan Department of Health and Human Services. Scenario. You are in your office on a quiet Monday It's early morning. School has just begun for the day.

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Responding to critical incidents in schools

Responding to Critical Incidents in Schools

A Behavioral Health Plan

October 22, 2010

Paul Deignan

Department of Health and Human Services


  • You are in your office on a quiet Monday

  • It's early morning.

  • School has just begun for the day.

  • One school bus is late arriving due to ice on the roads.

Details of the incident
Details of the Incident

  • The bus has 26 students from the middle and high schools on board (ages 10 - 17).

  • As the bus arrives, the driver is unable to stop the bus. The bus skids and then crashes through the wall of the music room. There are 25 students in the music room.

  • Two students are killed and 19 students are injured - four of them severely.

Purpose of the plan
Purpose of the Plan emergency response plan?

  • To enhance existing school emergency response plans

  • To expedite the assessment and response to a critical incident

  • To clarify roles of responders/helpers

  • To enhance a school`s capacity to respond to critical incidents in an effective and compassionate manner.

Critical incident
“Critical Incident” emergency response plan?

“Any incident that might impact the emotional functioning of members of the school community:”

  • Students

  • Faculty

  • Parents

“There cannot be a crisis this emergency response plan?


My schedule is already full.”

-Henry Kissinger

Types of school events
Types of School Events emergency response plan?

  • Student deaths

  • Staff deaths

  • Accidents

  • Suicides

  • Violence in schools or community (assaults, murders, drive-by shooting)

  • Natural disasters (tornado, earthquake, hurricane, ice storm, etc.)

  • School shootings

Probability of Event

Goals for managing a critical incident planning phase
Goals for Managing a Critical Incident emergency response plan?Planning Phase:

  • Have a school or district-wide behavioral health response team in place

  • Identify external community behavioral health resources and build relationships

  • Provide staff training on ………………………..

  • Include behavioral health issues in school based exercises and drills

  • Update contact information regularly

Goals for managing a critical incident response phase
Goals for Managing a Critical Incident emergency response plan?Response Phase:

  • Ensure safety of staff and students

  • Maintain stability of school operations

  • Maintain consistency of information

  • Address the emotional needs of students, parents, faculty and staff

  • Collaborate with external resources

Recovery key components
Recovery: Key Components emergency response plan?

  • Physical/Structural Recovery

  • Business/Fiscal Recovery

  • Academic Recovery

  • Psychological/Emotional Recovery

Academic recovery
Academic Recovery emergency response plan?

Youth exposed to violence and trauma have been shown to have:

  • Lower grade point averages (Hurt et al., 2001)

  • Decreased reading ability (Delaney-Black et al., 2003)*

  • More negative remarks in their cumulative records

  • More reported absences from school (Hurt et al., 2001)

  • Increased expulsions and suspensions (LAUSD survey)

  • Decreased rates of H.S. graduation (Grogger,1997)

*Source: Delaney-Black, V., Covington, C., Ondersma, S.J., Nordstrom-Klee, B., Templin, T., Ager, J., Janisse, J., & Sokol, R.J. (2002). Violence exposure, trauma, and IQ and/or reading deficits among urban children. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 156 (3), 280-285.

Restore the learning environment
Restore the Learning Environment emergency response plan?

  • Act to re-establish a sense of safety

  • Return school to routines & schedules

  • Support the emotional stabilization of students, faculty and parents

Psychological emotional recovery internal and external resources

COMMUNITY emergency response plan?

Public Health

Local Government

School District

Mental Health

Public Safety

Law Enforcement

Emergency Management

Psychological/Emotional Recovery: Internal and External Resources

  • Consider local mental health resources

  • Develop a structure for support

  • "Outside" vs. "Inside" help

Needs of various groups
Needs of Various Groups emergency response plan?

  • Administrators

  • Faculty

  • Students

  • Parents

  • Community

Strategic assessment
Strategic Assessment emergency response plan?

Assessment Tool (Appendix A)

  • Assess damage

  • Assess internal and external resources

  • Create a strategic plan of response

Responding to the critical incident
Responding to the Critical Incident emergency response plan?

  • Day One

  • Day Two

  • Day of the Funeral

  • Post-Memorial Services

  • Anniversary

Memorialization emergency response plan?

  • Policy for memorials

  • Temporary memorials

  • Living memorials

  • Scholarship funds

  • Candlelight vigils

  • On-line memorials

  • Pictures/plagues

  • Memory books

Checklists emergency response plan?

  • Superintendent

  • Principal

  • School based response team

  • Public Information Officer

Sample letters phone calls
Sample Letters/Phone Calls emergency response plan?

  • Letter to Faculty – death of student

  • Letter to Faculty – student suicide

  • Phone call to Parents – suicide or murder

  • Phone call to Parents – suspected suicide

  • Phone call to Parents – sudden student death

Other issues addressed in plan
Other Issues Addressed In Plan emergency response plan?

  • Sample After Action Report

  • Working with the Media

  • Military Kids

  • Suicide considerations


  • Community resources

  • Handouts

  • Web sites

First we have the test emergency response plan?


then we have the lesson

Contact information
CONTACT INFORMATION emergency response plan?

Paul Deignan,DBH Coordinator

[email protected]

Cell: 419-0074, Work 271-4462

Mark Lindberg, DBH Liaison

Cell: 991-3366, Work 444-5358

Joan Haskell,DBH Liaison

Cell: 566-3523, Work 889-6147