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Six Steps to Better Prepare Your School for an Emergency

Wrapping up National Preparedness Month

During an emergency, every second counts. For the month of September, the Nation was challenged to prepare, evaluate, and raise awareness on the importance of emergency preparedness. All month long, schools, workplaces, family homes, and communities were encouraged to share their plans and explore new resources. As National Preparedness Month has come to a close, it is important for leaders in our school systems to consistently evaluate and practice their emergency plans throughout the year.

Below are proven school-wide preparedness and classroom security recommendations our Fighting Chance Solutions team has learned over the years we believe are essential to properly handle any emergency or crisis situation.

1.  The first and best line of defense is a highly alert, well-trained staff and student body
It is important to hold regularly scheduled trainings with school administrators, educators, and support staff on school violence prevention, school security and school emergency planning best practices.

2. Proactive measures  
Simple classroom layouts allow for easy, quick in-and-outs. Pre-plan how to barricade a room in the case of a violent intruder. Know your options.

3.Updating, coordinating, and exercising school emergency preparedness plans 
It wasn’t until the Columbine attack in April 1999, when most schools created emergency/crisis plans, but how often have those plans been evaluated and updated? Plans should be evaluated every set number of years, determined by the administration or a major operational change to the building/district. Schools should have district-level building plans, and be on the lookout for gaps in emergency plans. These might include a lack of training of school staff on emergency plans, or a lack of exercising plans in cooperation with public safety partners.

4. Strengthening partnerships with public safety officials
School officials should meet regularly with their public safety partners including police, fire, emergency medical services, and emergency management agencies to discuss safety, security, and emergency planning strategies. School officials and public safety officials should have the same diagrams and nomenclature for campus building layouts, entrances, and stairwells.

5. Plan to manage an incident, not just to prevent one
Coordinate areas ahead of time and have separate locations for responders to set up:
-A command post
-Medical response (separated from media and parents)
-Media staging
-Parent/family staging (separated from media and medical response

6. Be aware and communicate
In 93% of incidents of targeted school violence, the student engaged in the behavior prior to the attack that elicited concern. This means many aspects of these threats can be addressed in advance with proper assessment, reporting, and information sharing.

Additional Resources
The U.S. Department of Education provides funding to some school districts for emergency-management planning through its “Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools” grant program: Found here

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides funding to local jurisdictions and state for emergency-management planning. Some of this funding can be provided to school districts for emergency-management planning purposes.

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