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Plan for emergencies and know how to respond.

Families and communities expect schools to keep their children safe from a range of emergency events, like crime, natural disasters, and accidents. Emergencies can happen at any time, and planning for different emergencies can be challenging for schools. A key component of emergency planning is creating an Emergency Operations Plan (school EOP), or a document that outlines how a school will prepare, respond, and recover from an emergency.

Every district or school should develop and implement comprehensive school EOPs that describe the actions that students, teachers, and school staff should take before, during, and after emergency events, and everyone should have a common understanding of what will be expected of them. Any reduction of time between the beginning and end of an incident can save lives.

As an important part of emergency planning, training teaches staff and faculty about the policies, procedures, roles, and responsibilities in their school’s EOP. It also gives them the information they need to train their students on emergency procedures. Tabletop exercises allow schools to discuss their plans, policies, and procedures in an emergency scenario. Drills provide everyone with the chance to practice the actions they will take before, during, and after an emergency. Training and exercises are an essential component of school safety plans.

Schools are also continuously reacting to incidents. Most incidents are small, but some events, like tragic acts of violence, have a larger impact and may disrupt the worldview of students, staff, and family members. Schools and districts can plan for how they will recover from incidents before they occur, which can make the recovery process quicker and more effective.

To address the wide range of needs that are linked to the aftermath of incidents at school, safety teams should ask themselves questions like: how do we address the counseling needs of students, staff, and families? Who has the authority to close and reopen the school? Does the school know how to reunify parents and students? Having answers to questions like these can help schools rebound more quickly.

Districts and schools should also have an overall strategy for academic, physical, fiscal, and emotional recovery, which includes knowing what to do and how to support the community. Successful recovery addresses the needs that emerge after an incident and having a plan can mean recovery is more effective and timely. 

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