You need a plan. Whether it's an emergency response plan (ERP), disaster recovery plan (DRP) or a business continuity plan (BCP). Having a plan gives your stakeholders a clear outline of how to approach, assess, and respond to any situation that could possibly strike.
Like anything else, it's best to re-evaluate your protocols and procedures before investing or implementing new safety improvements. A good place to start is by evaluating your current school safety plans. What are your emergency response plans like? Are they all the same for all your schools? Do they encompass all hazards and threats that could potentially affect your teachers, staff, and students? Or are your emergency response plans like most and only include the basics like earthquakes, active shooter, tornados, and fires?
During a recent webinar, we had the opportunity to hear Levaughn Smart, former member of law enforcement and current Director of Security for Kirkwood School District share the importance of having school emergency response plans that include all hazards that could possible effective your schools. Watch this short presentation on-demand to hear first hand how Levaughn and his team improved the safety and security of they schools through updated emergency response plans and improved communication.
Don't have time to watch the on-demand event? Here are some highlights on how to start improving your emergency response plans.
Like most when first stepping into the role of safety leader, Levaughn found that Kirkwood School District's emergency plans only covered the basics. To add to the scant emergency plans, Kirkwood’s teachers and staff would only take the printed emergency plans with them because they contained a red and green card that allowed them to indicate whether or not they had their students. Most of these individuals didn't even know what was in the emergency plans or what the process and procedures were for the different kinds of incidents.
To resolve some of these challenges, Levaughn and his team went back to basics and started improving their emergency response plans. They started by first making sure their revised emergency plans included all hazards that could potentially affect their schools. Once they had an extensive list of incidents that could affect their schools, they made sure to look at each incident from all angles. For instance, one school recently had a pool put in which caused them to come up with a plan to handle chlorine leaks. Other schools were located near major highways that cause them to come up with plans to handle multi-car crashes. While other schools were near train tracks which resulted in plans to handle train crashes or hazmat issues. When asked how to go about expanding your emergency plans to account for all hazards, Levaughn shared that it’s important to look at all aspects. If you can imagine it happening, then you need a protocol in place to handle the situation.
After identifying and looking at all aspects of the potential incidents, the next step is to inform your teachers and staff, in clear and specific terms, what to do next. Levaughn and his team found that by building checklists for all the incidents they identified, they could easily relay which duties their teachers and staff members needed to perform and what information they needed to know. Checklists are a natural way to put instructions into specific actionable steps that allow everyone to deal with an incident in a step-by-step approach.
Now that Kirkwood's emergency plans have been updated to include protocols and procedures for all incidents and checklists have been built, the next phrase was to ensure there was a way to communicate the incident to all stakeholders. Communication is the cornerstone of safety and you’re going to need a plan on how you want to communicate these incidents to your parents and community members (especially when the incident could affect your schools' brand and reputation).
It's important to remember that like a business, your schools have a brand and reputation to uphold. Meaning you need to be able to stay ahead of these incidents and have a plan in place to communicate and coordinate your response. Because if something happens, you know there's going to be a news story or social media mentions about it. For instance, if a student gets hit by a car in one of your parking lots, you are going to need a plan in place to deal with all aspects of this situation, including how you are going to communicate it to the public. It's safe to assume that if a student gets hit, there’s going to be posts on social media about how chaotic your parking lot was before (which could negatively affect the brand and reputation of your schools).
Remember that incidents happen, and recovery can be painstaking if you’re not prepared or if you don't have the necessary resources available for all your teachers and staff. Download our "Planning for School Safety: Keeping All-Hazards in Mind" eBook to learn what safety issues are most likely to affect your schools so you can keep them and their associated risk factors in mind as you create, evaluate, and expand your school safety plans and protocols.