Most likely, there’s a plan for attending to the students and sweeping the school environment in the event of an emergency. But there is not often a plan for communicating to first responders, parents, staff, school district, and the media before, during and after the event.
The key to successful emergency planning is having a communication strategy in place to ensure that crisis alerts, safety instructions, and in some cases, rescue and recovery plans, are transmitted, received and responded to.
It is critical to understand that all emergencies have three stages in which this chain of action/reaction occurs. Consider these tips in mapping out your communication strategy at every stage of your school’s emergency response plan –
Before an Emergency
This stage is all about preparing the staff on what to communicate, when and to whom in an emergency scenario. This is an opportunity to practice the proper dissemination of information before a crisis event strikes.
- Train staff on communicating details of emergencies with 911 operators. Questions you should be prepared to answer include:
- What is happening?
- Is anyone or how many are injured?
- Are the suspects still on the scene?
- What are their descriptions?
- Do they have weapons?
- Who will meet the police/fire/EHS at the door and what is their name/description?
- Train staff to constantly update emergency contacts made by students after school hours.
- Train staff to lead constructive dialogue with their students following a crisis.
- Identify the tools for communicating instructions internally/externally.
- Identify alternative tools for communicating internally/externally in the event of a phone/cell phone failure⬜ Identify whom, when, and under what circumstances will you communicate with parents, school board staff during an emergency.
- Establish, document and distribute emergency procedures widely to the students, parents and staff.
During an Emergency
Panic will most likely occur in the first 10 to 15 minutes following the onset of the crisis. Communicating to students and executing emergency plans accordingly is critical to decreasing panic at this time. And one of the first priorities is to contact police/ fire/emergency health services/emergency management organizations and ensure that the appropriate agency is dispatched.
- Contact 911, contact police/ fire/emergency health services/emergency management organization. State your emergency clearly and request assistance as appropriate.
- Contact the appropriate school board staff person as soon as practical
- Coordinate with the responding emergency services
- Be prepared to make an announcement on the PA system. Make your instructions clear and simple, for example –
“Attention. Everyone must leave the building immediately and assemble at your fire drill relocation points.”
In the event of a bomb threat, the person-in-charge may include the direction:
“Take your backpack if you have it with you.”
- Clearly describe where the main entrance is located or where the police should arrive or should avoid.
NOTE: It is important to remember that the Enhanced 911 system will not give a location if you are calling from a cell phone; therefore, you will need to state the address for the school as well as any specific directions responders should know.
- If the emergency involves injuries to students or staff, 911 operators will transfer you to Emergency Health Services dispatchers who will ask further questions in relation to the injuries or illness as well as giving directions for emergency care.
- If the emergency is ongoing, the 911 operators will request that you stay on the line with them to provide updates and additional information until the emergency responders arrive.
- Do not speculate, exaggerate, or minimize the facts with first responders.
After an Emergency
It is important that a DEBRIEFING occurs with the Crisis Team, PR agency and legal team to talk over what happened, and to receive counseling on dealing with the stress potentially suffered during the event.
- Assign a Media Spokesperson for the school. Make it clear to all staff that no one, other than the assigned spokesperson should speak on behalf of the school with the media.
- Assign a designated area for the media to deter them from approaching or photographing students. If the media will be on the site during the emergency/disaster, ensure that appropriate safety precautions are followed.
- Be consistent and transparent when communicating with the media. Give all of them access to the same information.
- Be factual. Do not speculate. Do not cover up or try to mislead the media.
- Keep records of all information provided to the media. Provide written press releases when possible.
- Prepare a ready-to-go notification for parents about the continuing care that is available to students.
- Develop information sheet for parents, teachers, and others; information will include topics such as talking with students, signs of depression, and others relating to crisis stress.
- Develop a schedule for activities for the first day of school following the crisis with support services.
- Meet and talk with the parents of students and spouses of adults who have been affected by the crisis
Your All-In-One Emergency Communication Tool
How ALERT Mobile Facilitates Rapid Response and Emergency Communication
|✓ Digital and Physical Silent Alarm|
ALERT can be immediately activated through physical or digital panic buttons with a direct connection to first responders.
|✓ Early Detection System|
ALERT Mobile works in tandem with HAVRION Protest’s Automated Sensors to detect threats in the environment and then send actionable notifications through the mobile app
|✓ All-in-one Communication Tool|
ALERT enables text, email, voice mail and group calls to rapidly coordinate emergency response and exchange critical information on and off-site
Short for Standard Response Protocol – a universal color-coded event response protocol to facilitate rapid and coordinated action
|✓ Live Updates|
ALERT pushes updates once staff and students are locked down safely or have evacuated the building
|✓ Real-Time Headcount|
Real-Time Attendance Checks is a key feature in ALERT that lets emergency managers know who is safe and who needs help
About Havrion ALERT
Alert’s all-in-one platform enables direct communication via text, email, voice mail and group calls. Real-time attendance checks is a key feature in Alert that lets emergency managers know who is safe and who needs help. It also pushes live updates during an active event (released once teachers and students are locked down safely or have evacuated the building).
External coordination among designated school staff, School District / DOE employees and 9-1-1 is instantaneously activated in Alert once the silent panic alarm is triggered. This communication feature allows emergency managers and first responders to coordinate next steps and exchange critical information.
There is no room for error when it comes to emergency response. And that is why Alert backs schools and districts with on-going training and support to ensure that all systems are always working properly.