Schools have become increasingly vulnerable to emergency-type incidents. Most of them are small and relatively manageable. But some events can be unpredictable and devastating. Random acts of violence, for example, often result in tragic injury and loss of life.
Thankfully, there are tools and resources available to help schools prepare for the worst type of emergencies before they even occur. For there’s a wide range of critical activities for safety teams to consider, like, how to rapidly assess impending or occurring incidents, how to communicate before, during and after an emergency event or how to reunify parents and students.
To help streamline and organize your efforts, here are 11 Important Protocols in a School Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) from the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center to guide your preparation, mitigation and recovery.
1. Accounting For All Persons
A school’s ability to account for all persons both during and after an emergency is as important as its ability to respond to a wide variety of hazards and threats. Develop clear-cut protocols for how to account for the whereabouts and well-being of students, faculty, staff, and visitors and to identify those who may be missing as a part of your Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs).
How staff will determine who is in attendance at the assembly area.
What to do when a student, staff member, or guest cannot be located.
How staff will report to the assembly supervisor.
How and when students will be dismissed or released.
Havrion PROTECT is a cloud-based emergency management system that provides real-time attendance information in an emergency – just one of the many mission-critical functions of Havrion’s integrated emergency solutions.
2. Alerts, Communications, and Warnings
The ability to communicate timely information is an important part of the work that emergency management teams do to support agency responses before, during and after a hazard or threat occurs. As a part of their emergency operations plans (EOPs), schools can develop clear-cut protocols for how to communicate necessary information with the whole school or campus community.
The planning team should consider the following when developing goals, objectives, and courses of action:
How the school’s communications system integrates into the local disaster and response law enforcement communication networks (e.g., fire department and law enforcement staff).
How to ensure relevant staff members can operate communications equipment.
How the school will communicate with students, families, and the broader community before, during, and after an emergency.
How to account for technology barriers faced by students, staff, parents, and guardians.
How to effectively address language access barriers faced by students, staff, parents, and guardians.
How the school will handle the media (e.g., district or school Public Information Officer [PIO]).
How impacts on students will be communicated to the community, including the impact on activities related to the school but not necessarily at the school or during regular school hours (i.e., church use of school property and athletic events).
How the school will ensure effective communication with individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs (e.g., coordinating with first responders and local emergency managers to provide sign language interpreters for use during press conferences, publishing only accessible documents, ensuring information on websites is accessible).
Havrion ALERT works to ensure rapid internal and external communications in any emergency event through physical panic buttons or Havrion’s Mobile Panic Button application with a direct connection to 911, first responders, school, district and DOE administration.
3. Continuity of Operations (COOP)
When an emergency happens, it may be difficult to plan for continuity of operations and learning. A COOP outlines how planning and response teams will ensure that essential functions continue during an emergency and its immediate aftermath. Essential functions include business services (payroll and purchasing), communication (internal and external), computer and systems support, facilities maintenance, safety and security, and continuity of teaching and learning.
How the COOP will be designed so that it can be activated at any time and sustained for up to 30 days.
How the COOP will set priorities for re-establishing essential functions, such as restoration of school operations, and maintaining the safety and well-being of students and the learning environment.
How the COOP will ensure students receive applicable related services in the event of a prolonged closure.
4. Evacuation Procedures
When and how to evacuate is a common concern for the whole school community, including students, staff, visitors, families, and community partners. This includes, but is not limited to, questions related to how to evacuate individuals with limited mobility, how procedures change depending on the type of threat or hazard, and where to move students, staff, and visitors when routes are unstable.
Schools should consider these questions and others when developing an Evacuation protocol as a part of their emergency operations plans (EOPs). It should outline the roles and responsibilities, and courses of action for everyone involved in the process.
How to safely move students and visitors to designated assembly areas from classrooms, outside areas, cafeterias, and other school locations.
How to evacuate when the primary evacuation route is unusable.
How to evacuate students who are not with a teacher or staff member.
How to evacuate individuals with disabilities (along with service animals and assistive devices, e.g., wheelchairs) and others with access and functional needs, including language, transportation, and medical needs.
Digital displays are especially helpful in public spaces where people may not be familiar with the building. Content can be customized according to the event and the space where it is being displayed so that occupants in different areas of the building can view easy to understand directions about how to exit safely.
Havrion CONNECT pushes clear and consistent messaging wherever there’s a digital display. CONNECT links digital screens across all devices within the facility, enabling schools to stream instructions, health bulletins and other critical information for immediate display.
5. Family Reunification
When unpredictable incidents occur, they may prevent a normal school dismissal, thereby making it difficult for families to reunite with students. A Family Reunification protocol can be created as a part of a school emergency operations plan (EOP) in order to detail actions to take before, during, and after an emergency to ensure students are reunited with their families.
There are many aspects to consider when creating a Family Reunification protocol including communications; logistics; student security and release; and children who are missing, injured, or worse. Once completed, it should provide details on how to inform families about the reunification process in advance; clearly describe roles and responsibilities in reunification; verify that an adult is authorized to take custody of a student; and facilitate communication between the family check-in gate, student assembly area, and reunification area.
How to inform families and guardians about the reunification process in advance, and how to clearly describe their roles and responsibilities in reunification.
How to verify that an adult is authorized to take custody of a student.
How to facilitate communication between the parent check-in and the student assembly and reunion areas.
How to ensure students do not leave on their own.
How to protect the privacy of students and parents from the media.
How to reduce confusion during the reunification process.
How frequently families will be updated.
How to account for technology barriers faced by students, staff, parents, and guardians.
How to effectively address language access barriers faced by students, staff, parents, and guardians.
6. Lockdown Procedures
When the safety of students, staff and visitors has been compromised in an emergency, it might be necessary to close, deny entry to and/or lockdown a school building or entire campus. Policies and procedures related to lockdown, denying entry, and impromptu school closures can be outlined in a Lockdown protocol as a part of an education agency’s emergency operations plan (EOP).
Schools are encouraged to work closely with emergency management planning team members and community partners (e.g., law enforcement) to identify practices and procedures that can be customized to buildings throughout the school environment.
Plan the courses of action to secure school buildings and grounds during incidents that pose an immediate threat of violence in or around the school. The primary objective of a lockdown is to ensure all school staff, students, and visitors are secured in the rooms away from immediate danger.
How to lock all exterior doors, and when it may or may not be safe to do so.
How particular classroom and building characteristics (i.e., windows, doors) impact possible lockdown courses of action.
What to do when a threat materializes inside the school.
When to use the different variations of a lockdown (e.g., when outside activities are curtailed, doors are locked, and visitors are closely monitored, but all other school activities continue as normal).
7. Public Health, Medical, and Mental Health
There are various reasons that an education agency may need to activate the Public Health, Medical, and Mental Health protocol in their emergency operations plans (EOPs) to support prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery efforts. For example, if students, staff, or visitors are injured, emergency medical services (e.g., first aid) from community partners may be needed immediately.
If an infectious disease outbreak occurs within your locality, the support of public health professionals within the school and campus community will be required. During and after a traumatic event, students and staff may need mental health counseling services to support recovery.
A Public Health, Medical, and Mental Health protocol will help schools coordinate these efforts with the appropriate emergency medical services, public health, mental health, law enforcement, fire department, and emergency management representatives.
What the role of staff members is in providing first aid during an emergency.
Where emergency medical supplies (e.g., first aid kits, AEDs) will be located and who is responsible for purchasing and maintaining those materials.
Which staff have relevant training or experience, such as in first aid or CPR.
How the school will secure a sufficient number of counselors in the event of an emergency.
How the school will promptly share and report information about outbreaks or epidemics or other unusual medical situations to the local health department.
How the school will support the needs of students identified by the threat assessment team.
The goal of recovery is to return to a sense of “normalcy” and restore to a safe and supportive environment. A Recovery protocol is created in advance and outlines how the school will work with its community partners to recover from an emergency. An effective Recovery protocol includes realistic actions and related expectations for returning to typical educational functions.
Resuming educational programming and teaching and learning through curriculum re-evaluations, academic assessment, staff and schedule adjustments, restoration and relocation of classrooms and other rooms for education purposes, etc.
- When the school should be closed and reopened, and who has the authority to do so.
- What temporary space(s) the school may use if school buildings cannot be immediately reopened.
- How to provide alternate educational programming in the event that students cannot physically reconvene.
Business Services Recovery
Resuming payroll, contracts, back-up IT services, and other operations, sometimes through the use of memoranda of understanding, to support teaching and learning as well as related essential services that the education agency provides.
- How district leadership will be included (e.g., superintendent, chief business officer, personnel director, and risk manager)
- How staff will receive timely and factual information regarding returning to work
- What sources the school may access for emergency relief funding
Health, Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Recovery
Providing adequate support to all members of the whole school community through ongoing assessments and monitoring, Employee Assistance Programs, counseling services, trauma and grief-focused mental health programs, Psychological First Aid for Schools, and fatigue prevention efforts, etc.
Who will serve as the team leader.
Where counseling and psychological first aid will be provided.
How teachers will create a calm and supportive environment for the students, share basic information about the incident, provide psychological first aid (if trained), and identify students and staff who may need immediate crisis counseling.
Who will provide trained counselors.
How to address the immediate, short-, and long-term counseling needs of students, staff, and families.
How to handle commemorations, memorial activities, or permanent markers and/or memorial structures (if any will be allowed). This includes concerns such as when a commemoration site will be closed, what will be done with notes and tributes, and how students will be informed in advance.
How memorial activities will strike a balance among honoring the loss, resuming school and class routines and schedules, and maintaining hope for the future.
How the Public Health, Medical, and Mental Health Annex will inform the actions and plans of the Recovery Annex.
Physical and Structural Recovery
Restoration of buildings, equipment, and supplies through facility cleaning, damage assessments and repairs, donation and volunteer management, hazard removal, etc. The planning team should consider the following when developing its goals, objectives, and courses of action:
How to document school assets, including physically accessible facilities, in case of damage.
Which personnel have expert knowledge of the schools’ assets, and how and where they will access records to verify current assets after disaster strikes.
How the school will work with utility and insurance companies before an emergency to support a quicker recovery.
Plan the courses of action to implement on a routine, ongoing basis to secure the school from criminal threats originating from both inside and outside the school. This includes efforts done in conjunction with law enforcement personnel.
How agreements with law enforcement agencies address the daily role of law enforcement officers in and around school.
How to get students to and from school safely (including traffic control and pedestrian safety);
How to keep prohibited items out of school;
How to respond to threats identified by the behavioral threat assessment team; and
How information will be shared with law enforcement officers or other responders (keeping in mind any requirements or limitations of applicable privacy laws, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 [FERPA], the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 [HIPAA], and civil rights and other laws). For more information on FERPA and HIPAA, visit Information Sharing.
How to make sure the building is physically secure (including implementation of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design [CPTED])
Arranging physical features to maximize visibility.
Natural access control
Guiding people with signage, well-marked entrances and exits, and landscaping while limiting access to certain areas by using real or symbolic barriers.
Clearly delineating space, expressing pride and ownership, and creating a welcoming environment.
Management and Maintenance
Ensuring building services function properly and safely, and the exterior is properly maintained and organized with landscaping and plantings maintained and trimmed.
When a threat or hazard exists outdoors, it may be safer for students and staff to remain inside a building or room. Schools can outline how to execute this activity before, during, and after an emergency in a Shelter-in-Place protocol as a part of their emergency operations plan (EOP).
This may include information on integrating “safe rooms” into buildings, lists of supplies needed for sheltering inside, and courses of action for sealing up a room. Planning teams should consider how to protect and provide for the needs of the whole school or campus community through all phases of shelter-in-place.
Depending on the threat or hazard, students and staff may be required to move to rooms that can be sealed (such as in the event of a chemical or biological hazard) or without windows, or to a weather shelter (such as in the event of a tornado).
What supplies will be needed to seal the room and to provide for the needs of students and staff (e.g., water).
How a shelter-in-place can affect individuals with disabilities and others with access and functional needs, such as students who require the regular administration of medication, durable medical equipment, and personal assistant services.
How to move students when the primary route is unusable.
How to locate and move students who are not with a teacher or staff member.
Consider the need for and integration of “safe rooms” for protection against extreme wind hazards (such as a tornado or hurricane) in order to provide immediate life-safety protection when evacuation is not an option.
11. Rapid Assessment
Comprehensive preparedness programs include activities before, during, and after an emergency, but a critical period is when a school is notified or becomes aware of an occurring or impending emergency.
The strategy that is deployed upon this notification should be based on information in the Rapid Assessment protocol of the school’s emergency operations plan (EOP). The EOP should include information to guide the Incident Commander, with the response team, to make decisions regarding the type and scale of the incident. The role of “Incident Commander” is a part of the National Incident Management System and Incident Command System.
How to immediately gather information to determine the type and scale of the incident
How to determine an appropriate response
How to determine which annexes should be implemented
How the institution will take immediate action to protect life and property
Whether goals, objects, and courses of action are consistent with the requirements of the Clery Act
About HAVRION PROTECT
HAVRION PROTECT is a complete suite of hardware and software systems that delivers advanced situational awareness, communication and response for smarter and safer schools, buildings and facilities.
With Havrion Protect you can: Control devices, applications, and communication platforms virtually in an emergency event; Manage sensors, triggers, devices, and displays on digital floor plans from a single, centralized management console; Build customized evacuation floor plans with static routes and lock down procedures; and Design levels of security and communication.