Every day 53,000,000 plus children—20 percent of the total US population—attend school or day care . Keeping children safe and healthy during school hours is central to the mission of each school district. During times of crisis, school staff must function temporarily as first responder, parent, nurse, and physician. During a crisis, schools may need to feed, shelter, administer first aid, and handle mental health needs of all students, often including an array of special needs students or students with limited English proficiency.
The way each community uses “crisis” depends upon their own history, culture, and way of doing business. An emergency is generally thought to be any situation that requires an immediate police, fire, or medical response to preserve life or property. Emergencies include a serious injury or illness (e.g., loss of consciousness, difficulty breathing, severe pain or bleeding), a fire, a chemical spill, a drowning, a fight, an assault or immediate danger of assault, a crime in progress, a situation involving weapons, a suicide attempt, etc.
Whether the incident is an unexpected event that can be managed by using existing resources and capabilities, or one that is considered a disaster—an incident that requires an increased level of response beyond the routine operative procedures, including increased personnel, equipment, or supply requirements - planning with local emergency responders before the event is key. Working together, school and community responders will development steps consistent with the fours stages of emergency management:
- Mitigation/Prevention addresses what schools and districts can do to eliminate risk to life and property.
- Preparedness focuses on the process of planning for potential hazards and includes training staff and students and developing crisis response procedures
- Response includes action steps to effectively address an emergency or crisis; and
- Recovery deals with restoring the learning environment, both physically and emotionally after a crisis.
Taking action in peaceful times can save lives, prevent injury, and minimize property damage in the moments of crisis. Classrooms preparedness is essential to the school’s comprehensive crisis response plan. Preparedness includes:
Resources and Supplies in the Classrooms
- Methods of communication
- First Aid equipment
- Water, food, medical supplies for special needs students
- Student Information
- Emergency Operations Manual at every desk that covers evacuation, lockdown, shelter-in-place, room clear, bomb threat, drop, cover and hold, CBRNE shelter-in-place, relocating students, releasing students
Training of Staff on Emergency Response Protocols
- First Aid ProceduresEmergency Response Actions
Your school’s crisis plan will contain specific response actions for each staff person to follow, including the Crisis Response Team for actions such as:
- Lock Down
- Room Clear
- Bomb Threat
- Drop, Cover, Hold
- CBRN Shelter in Place
- Relocating Students
- Releasing Students
- Blood Borne Pathogens
General response actions for the classroom that should always be executed in accordance with your school’s protocol are outlined in the PDF in the Resources Section.
- See PDF in Resources for a list of response actions for the classroom.
- See links to ready.Ohio.gov for more preparedness materials
Take Time to Recover
Recovery from emergencies or full-blown disasters is a gradual process. During this phase, safety is the primary issue. The Ohio Department of Health and Emergency Management Agency have resources to help communities deal with safety issues following disaster. Those links can be found in the Resource Section.
Everyone who sees or experiences a disaster is affected by it in some way. It is normal to feel anxious about your own safety and that of your students. Planners of your school’s crisis response plan have in most instances already established relationships with community mental health and faith-based professionals who can help everyone affected by the crisis with counseling, support services, and access to needed resources.
Children are of special concern in the aftermath of disasters. Debriefing even the smallest emergency can help them understand why planning, preparedness, efficient and appropriate responses are important. The Ohio Department of Mental Health has resources for assisting communities with recovery issues. Those links can be found in the Resource Section.