School Emergency Operations Planning

Michael Herrera

Today’s school environments require comprehensive emergency management planning, training and exercises to ensure the safety of our children, faculty and administrators.  A school environment is a  fluid environment that requires a high level of preparedness and training be imparted on those responsible for the safety of our children.

School emergency planning must be integrated with the District Office and, most importantly, be coordinated with local Emergency Services (e.g., Fire, Police, EMS, Emergency Management, etc.).  The School, District Office and local Emergency Services MUST all know beforehand what each is going to do and how they will work together when an event occurs.

The recent events have made it clear; our schools must be throughly trained and prepared to deal with highly fluid, complex events.  The only way to accomplish this is to have a comprehensive planning and exercise process that places our school personnel in stressful simulations that will heighten this capability.  So what should this look like:

 

At the School Level:

  • Emergency Response Team (ERT) with primary and alternate team members who are regularly trained and schooled in responding to an emergency at the school.
  • Threat Assessment Protocols to address and respond to potential threats (e.g., phone calls, anonymous tips, etc.)
  • Emergency Procedures detailing the types of emergencies (Lockdown, Lockin, etc.) and steps to be followed should they occur.
  • Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) consistent with the Incident Command System.  Primary and alternate team members should be defined for each position (e.g., Incident Commander, Security & Safety, Operations, Planning, etc.).
  • Well defined and tested Student/Parent reunification procedures.
  • GoBag with appropriate supplies (vests, radios, plans, basic supplies, contact lists, MSDS sheets, etc.) that is located inside as well as outside the school.

 

At the District Level

  • Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) consistent with the Incident Command System.  Primary and alternate team members should be defined for each position (e.g., Incident Commander, Security & Safety, Operations, Planning, etc.).
  • Threat Assessment Protocols to address and respond to potential threats (e.g., phone calls, anonymous tips, etc.) made to a school and/or the district.
  • Guidelines on how the District Office will address safety, security and parents across the schools when one or more schools experience an event (e.g. will all schools go in Lockdown if one school has a verifiable event, etc).
  • Communications plan outlining steps and protocols to communicate with parents, the community and the ERTs at all schools.
  • Continuity of Operations plan detailing steps to resume school operations either at the primary site or an alternate location, if needed.

 

At the Local Emergency Services Level

  • Pre-meetings with the school Administrator, Faculty and Emergency Response Team to make introductions and have a clear understanding of the school’s approach to its response to an event.
  • Communication between the School and Emergency Services as to primary and secondary evacuation areas, staging areas, etc.
  • Copies of the School’s Emergency Procedures, Emergency Operations Plans and Floor plans.

 

Training at the School Level

  • Semi-annual emergency procedure review with the Emergency Response Team
  • Annual tabletop exercises at the school incorporating the ERT, District Office and Emergency Services (a minimum of police and fire)
  • Full scale exercise at the school every two – three years with the ERT, District and Emergency Services

 

There is much to be done and time cannot wait.  We have already waited too long and our children need to be protected.

 

About
Michael Herrera is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MHA. In his role, Michael provides global leadership to the entire set of industry practices and horizontal capabilities within MHA. Under his leadership, MHA has become a leading provider of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery services to organizations on a global level. He is also the founder of BCMMETRICS, a leading cloud based tool designed to assess business continuity compliance and residual risk. Michael is a well-known and sought after speaker on Business Continuity issues at local and national contingency planner chapter meetings and conferences. Prior to founding MHA, he was a Regional VP for Bank of America, where he was responsible for Business Continuity across the southwest region.