As we transition from the philosophical aspects of School Safety to the more practical and physical aspects, we need to set the foundation for what you want your students and staff to do during an emergency. This is where the Emergency Operations Plans (EOPS) come into play. But before we get into this subject deeper, let’s define a couple of terms just so we understand what’s being addressed:
While there are many plans that will need to be completed during your journey as a School Safety Professional, most of us consider the Emergency Operations Plans (EOP) to be the most used plans for school safety, and that is where we will focus on in this blog. As the title suggests, EOPs are where you will define what your district’s expectations are, what the responsibilities are, and who is responsible for the completion of the individual tasks necessary to meet those objectives. Most states require that every school district have an All-Hazards plan. Some states define exactly what is required, while other states leave this to the individual schools to define All-Hazards. For the purposes of this blog, we will use this definition: Every school should have EOPs in place to adequately protect their students and staff, and to adequately respond to any/every emergency that may occur. While this may seem overwhelming at first, it is much easier than it may seem.
Emergency Protective Actions (EPAs): An EPA is any action one might take to protect themselves and others during an emergency. The “I Love U Guys” Foundation has developed the Standard Response Protocols: Lockdown, Secure, Evacuate, Shelter, and Hold. These are all EPAs, and if you understand these and what to do, when you have a very good working knowledge of what EPAs are. Essentially, if you understand EPA, you can respond to any emergency that you are confronted with and you can ensure the best possible survival rate for you and those you are responsible for. It is important to know and understand that EPAs can be used individually and/or in combination based on the specific situation you are experiencing. An example of this is the Run, Hide, Fight protocol: Run is actually an evacuation, Hide is a “Lockdown/Secure”, and Fight is a defensive action taken to protect yourself and others should the need arise. Why do we need to know these to construct our EOPs? Well, let’s explore that question now.
EOPs are the plans which define the steps, tasks, roles, and responsibilities everyone needs to undertake to protect themselves and others during an emergency. EOPs are used to set the foundation for all of your drills and exercises and all of the training you provide your students and staff so they can protect themselves during an emergency. So how do we develop those plans? Well simply put, you call your team(s) together, bring all of your policies and procedures, sit at a table and start talking about what you think everyone should do in order to be compliant with your policies and procedures. Now repeat that process until you have addressed all of the identifiable hazards you may face. As we have discussed many times previously, this is where it would be very helpful to bring in your local experts; your first responders, and anyone else with whom you would need to rely on during an emergency (hospitals, mental health, community groups, etc.) Once you have done that, you will have completed your first draft of your EOPs. You should have the plan and any checklists (lists of tasks to be completed) ready to be refined. You might now be asking yourself, “then what?” Well, let’s take a walk.
When I say walk, I mean both literally and figuratively. After we have what we believe to be a good working EOP, it is time to see how it will actually work. I describe this as “walking the plan”. Walking the plan means taking a likely, or if you are more advanced, an unlikely scenario, going to a campus, and while using the chosen scenario, literally walking that plan. Take your entire safety team and your emergency partners with you. Go to the location where the scenario would start to unfold. As the scenario unfolds, think through the scenario as it progresses from the beginning to the end. You will likely walk through the plan several times, but try doing it at least twice: the first walkthrough would be to get a feeling of what it would look like with no actions taken; the second would be a walkthrough with the implementation of your EOP. As you are walking through the progression, what are you expecting to see and do? Does what you are seeing actually align with what you are expecting? If it does, then great you have done a fantastic job. If it doesn’t, then make the necessary adjustments and now you have done a fantastic job! Now complete this process with all of your other EOPs.
We will talk more about the specifics of the EOPs in our next blog about drills and exercises. Be sure to subscribe to our blogs and podcasts to learn more about what we at CrisisGo are doing to help you keep your schools and communities safe.