Importance of a School Crisis Management Plan

Topics: Loss Control

Summary: A disaster can happen anytime and anywhere, impacting lives, communities, businesses and even schools. It is critical for schools to have a crisis management plan in place to help during those chaotic times. Learn how being prepared for a crisis can help to keep your school safe.

Importance of Having a School Crisis Plan

Starting a new school year means getting fresh supplies and establishing new routines. The main goal of all educational organizations is to provide a great learning experience for their students, but it is also necessary for schools and universities to have a crisis management plan in place. Natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes and active shooter incidents threatened or actual, also must be planned for. Also, school systems can be a victim of a ransomware cyber attack.

Crisis planning for schools is an in-depth exercise that varies by each institution, but the basics are universal and should be thoroughly understood by all who work in education. Having a response plan before problems occur is critical to helping to restore normalcy and reduce damages. One of the best preparations for the unpredictable is crisis education for students, faculty, and administrators, which clearly spells out how to respond to various crisis events.

Crisis Management Plans for Schools

Experts have noted that when catastrophes occur, individuals involved tend to go on autopilot. There is no time during the disaster to think about what to do next, so everyone involved should know what to do ahead of time. When a crisis occurs, staff should know how to react, the protocol for lockdown and evacuation, how to dismiss students, and what to do if staff or students need help. Without a response plan, the chances of responding appropriately in a crisis are generally much lower than if all players have practiced the basic steps they will need to take.

This readiness typically begins with a crisis management plan. A carefully selected team should identify the types of incidents (natural or man-made) that may occur and define what events would activate the plan. The U.S. Department of Education breaks down the steps to prepare for a critical situation into the following:
  • Mitigation and prevention: Administrators need to take inventory of the dangers in a school and community and identify what to do to prevent and reduce injury and property damage should something happen.
  • Preparedness: Being prepared will help to facilitate a rapid, coordinated, effective response. Consider existing crisis management efforts, so there are no redundancies and no area is overlooked. The plan should define roles and responsibilities and develop communication methods with staff, students, families, and the media. Having the necessary equipment and supplies on hand and practicing emergency responses with monthly or quarterly drills is also critical.
  •  Response: If an incident occurs, your response will depend on your preparedness and prevention measures. The response should happen as quickly as possible and may include evacuating or locking down the school, triaging injuries and providing emergency first aid to those who need it. Supplies should be kept nearby and organized at all times. Leaders must project a calm and serious attitude to reassure people of the wisdom of the directions being given.
  • Recovery: After the crisis, the recovery period is the process of returning to learning and restoring the school's infrastructure as quickly as possible. School staff can be trained to deal with the emotional impact of the crisis and to initially assess the emotional needs of students, staff and responders.

Best Practices for Developing a School Crisis Planning Program

Keep in mind a few established best practices when developing your own crisis education and planning programs:

School crisis management plans should not be created in a vacuum

These plans are a natural extension of ongoing school and community efforts to create safe learning environments and should involve all aspects of the school’s community. Schools should consider tailoring district emergency response plans to meet individual school needs and provide teachers and staff with ready access to the plan so they can understand its components and act on them.

Keep the most crucial components of your crisis management plan at your fingertips

Administrators should organize the information and resources to respond to a disaster appropriately. Some things you might want to include in a disaster recovery toolkit include:
  • A “Command Tree” that designates a single point person to undertake or coordinate official, emergency and media communications
  • A reverse 911 communication system, with instructions readily available to key persons
  • A text-based notification and alert system
  • Checklist pages from the crisis plan
  • A copy of important phone numbers such as district and building level administrators, inter-agencies, key parents and media
  • Staff and student directories
  • Media guide or fact sheet about your school
  • Daily attendance record
  • Evacuation site contact numbers
  • Instructions on how to disconnect internet and television leads

Administrators should also consider an at-home packet for themselves if a problem occurs during off-hours. For example, if a principal is notified of a break-in where the phone system has been destroyed, she or he needs to have phone directories to begin making calls, starting with the superintendent at home.

Recovery and remember procedures

Disasters aren’t over once the dust settles; those affected will remember the event and need to process it in their own time with the help of mental health resources. It can help to remember anniversaries of crises, as many occasions will remind staff, students and families of the event. Teachers and staff should be sensitive to their own and the students’ reactions in such situations and provide support when necessary. School crisis planning guides suggest holding appropriate memorial services or other activities, such as planting a tree in memory of crisis victims. This is also a good time to review the plan and evaluate its effectiveness, relevancy and need for updating.

Mitigate risks and have proper coverage

The final piece of the crisis management plan is being sufficiently insured while keeping your employees and property safe from insurance risks. Through education, training and onsite surveys, loss control experts can help identify and reduce risks to make schools safer. Having school insurance coverage can help make the recovery easier, smoother, and faster if a catastrophe occurs. Verify that your insurance plan is appropriate for your organization, and review the policy at least annually to ensure it meets your school’s needs.

Small Business Insurance Coverage for Schools from AmTrust

AmTrust offers a variety of coverages to help protect educational institutions. Our small business insurance products are designed to protect your school property and staff from the various daily risks they could face. Contact us today to get the protection your school needs.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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