In any school, the safety of students and staff should take top priority. In the event of an altercation or other dangerous incidents in schools, a detailed set of emergency response procedures will make it much easier to resolve the issue quickly, fairly, and with minimal harm to the parties involved.
When developing an emergency response plan, the following components are all crucial and will contribute to making the school a safe environment for all.
Update Your Plan Regularly
As soon as something changes in a school, the school's emergency response plan should be updated with those changes in mind. Changes to floor plans, keys or access cards, or contact information of certain personnel can be detrimental if they are not properly documented. Create a procedure that involves updating emergency response plan documentation as soon as critical components of the plan are adjusted, or schedule regular reviews of the plan to make sure everything is up to date.
Furthermore, emergency response procedures should be adjusted if critical issues arise during a lockdown drill. Was there a crack in your otherwise seamless communication flow? Was anyone confused or unsure of what to do? Did the police have any issues getting into the building when they needed to? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, it's time to reevaluate and update your emergency response plan.
Practice Lockdown Scenarios
Not every incident in schools will require a lockdown, but it's important for all students and staff to be prepared should a lockdown ever occur. Schedule regular lockdown drills, at least one per school year, so that students and staff know what to do when a real lockdown occurs. After the drill, hold a debrief session with the appropriate parties to determine what worked, what didn't, and what can be done to make things more efficient.
You'll also need to plan and practice your communication procedures during lockdowns. First and foremost, you will need to contact the police immediately in the event of any lockdown; you'll also need to quickly determine whether anyone in the building needs medical attention and act accordingly. Furthermore, you will need to keep teachers, parents, and guardians informed throughout the lockdown. Determine exactly who you will need to contact, their contact information and preferred contact method, and make sure their contact information is up to date at all times. For parents and guardians especially, you'll want a variety of communication methods at your disposal—like voice, SMS, and email—to ensure you can reach people wherever they are.
After the Incident
Communication isn't only important during the incident. After the incident has passed, the principal will be responsible for conducting an investigation which will involve contacting any individuals with potentially relevant information about what happened. This will include individuals at the scene (victims, suspects, and witnesses) and may also include the parents or guardians of specific students. For individuals who were unable to remain at the scene, collect their contact information so you can reach them later; you should also keep the contact records of interviewed individuals in case they remember more details later.
Create a Safe Environment
Prevention is an important part of any emergency plan, and one way to try to prevent altercations in schools is to foster a safe and respectful environment for students. Everyone should be taking some form of responsibility for keeping the school safe, rather than entrusting school safety to a select group of people. You should develop a plan to keep security equipment up to standard and working correctly, as well as coordinate teachers' supervision duties outside of instructional duties.
Community involvement also contributes to creating a safe school environment. There should be a set of procedures and programs in place working towards building healthy and respectful relationships among students. These could include buddy programs where new students are paired with senior students to help them adjust, social workers for students who need more emotional or behavioral support, and involvement with different organizations and community groups outside the school. Like emergency response procedures and security equipment, these programs should be reviewed regularly to optimize effectiveness and there should be a steady communication flow to ensure everything is running smoothly.
Ready to improve your emergency response plan?
If there's one critical part of any emergency response plan, it's communication. You need to be able to connect with stakeholders before, during, and after school incidents to ensure there are no holes in the plan. A multi-channel mass notification system can be useful for reaching all stakeholders via their preferred communication method quickly and without any fuss. SimplyCast's Alerts tool combines voice, email, SMS, and fax alerts in one for full versatility. Click here for more information about Alerts and other emergency communication tools.