Ready - Preparing for and preventing
Action steps for prevention include mitigating potential hazards:
The assessment should include a review of fights, crimes, and other disciplinary events that have occurred on or around school property. This will help ensure that resources are properly deployed to areas of the school where they are most needed.
School officials should take steps to reduce the likelihood that people or property will be harmed when disaster strikes. For example, if a school is located in a flood zone, officials can ensure that valuable material is kept from low-lying areas.
School administrators should consider the location of special student or staff populations, such as those who have disabilities, to ensure that they are not situated near potentially dangerous or inaccessible areas of the school building.
Safety planning efforts should involve the school custodian or maintenance director. Typically this person has the "full run" of the building and can provide valuable insight into changes that could be made to the school's physical structure to make it safer.
School District, Campus, local emergency management, law enforcement, health, and mental health personnel should be involved in developing emergency protocols. Written agreements should be drafted, such as memoranda of understanding, which clearly delineate the roles of both emergency responders and school officials during an emergency.
Parents should be made aware of general procedures of emergency operation plans at their child's school. In an emergency, their knowledge of the general emergency procedures and protocol can help reduce confusion, panic, and perhaps serious injury.
Schools need to work closely with health providers and volunteer organizations to develop lists of their available resources before a disaster strikes. Knowledge of available human resources and stocks of equipment can save precious time during an emergency.
Frequent emergency drills, using pre determined and appropriate protocol, should be conducted to reduce the possibility that students and staff may become victims in an emergency, and to ensure that responses are well executed. Frequent drills help ensure that staff and students know what their responsibilities are during any type of emergency.
Action steps for response include:
In a crisis, emergency responders must be aware of the overall makeup and population of the school. Emergency responders must also be aware of the physical layout of the school. Schools should provide them with confidential access to floor plans.
A response must always take into consideration the ages and mental health of students and staff, as well as their physical abilities and limitations.
Schools must become familiar with the Incident Command System, the system that emergency responders use to manage crises that require a multi-agency response. This system unifies terminology, structure, objectives, and functions and ensures that there is one central chain of command with information flowing smoothly to all of the agencies concerned.
Action steps to recovery include:
Efforts to return to the school after a disaster must be carefully timed and coordinated to meet the needs of both students and staff.
Schools should work with qualified professionals to assess the emotional needs of students and staff and arrange for counseling and other appropriate interventions.
To support the recovery process, schools should assemble lists of qualified mental health professionals and community organizations during the preparedness phase, so they will be available and pre-screened to help in the recovery phase as soon as needed.
School and health care officials should have resources available to help school children cope with disaster anniversary dates or memorials.
School buildings may incur considerable damage during an event such as a hurricane or a tornado. Schools should be prepared for the possibility of the need to relocate staff and students to alternate sites while repairs are made. Some districts have developed plans to have schools function in dual shifts, thereby splitting the school day in half. This decreases the chance for the school environment to become overwhelmed.