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Foundational Elements of School Safety

While there isn't a universal safety plan, schools can take common actions to address the foundational elements of school safety.

SchoolSafety.gov provides a Safety Readiness Tool for you to evaluate how your district or school is addressing these foundational elements. When you are done with the assessment, you will get a personalized action plan that has resources and next steps for each of these areas.

Designated Staff

Designated Staff

Designated staff is an individual or group of individuals responsible for emergency management and effective implementation of safety and security policies, programs, directives, and training within their district or school. Safety or security departments are a group of people working together to fulfill this same purpose. All staff should have appropriate emergency management training and certifications from the Emergency Management Institute or other similar programs. 

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School Climate

School Climate

School climate reflects how members of the school community experience the school, including interpersonal relationships, teacher and staff practices, and organizational arrangements. School climate includes factors that serve as conditions for learning and that support physical and emotional safety, connection, support, and engagement. Measuring school climate helps to understand the perceptions of students, staff, and parents. It also helps monitor progress, make data-driven decisions, involve stakeholders, and adapt to shifting needs

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Reporting Systems

Reporting Systems

Reporting systems allow schools to learn information about concerning behaviors from members of the school community. Mechanisms for reporting range from systems that encourage reporting information to an adult at school to more formal systems that have anonymous online reporting, like tip lines.

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Threat Assessment

Threat Assessment

Threat assessment is the process of identifying, assessing, and managing individuals of concern, including students, faculty, or staff.  A threat assessment team is a group of trained, multidisciplinary school personnel that are tasked with early identification and intervention with at-risk students and staff.  A threat assessment begins by identifying an individual who has displayed a concerning behavior, which may or may not involve a direct threat. The threat assessment team will gather information to assess whether or not that individual poses a risk of violence or other unwanted behavior, and identify intervention strategies to manage that risk.

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Emergency Operations Plans

Emergency Operations Plans

An Emergency Operations Plan (school EOP) is also known as an emergency plan, emergency action plan, emergency response plan, or crisis plan. It addresses threats and hazards to the school and safety needs before, during, and after an incident. Threats included in the plan are based on a school’s specific needs and characteristics. Examples of threats and hazards addressed in the school EOP are hurricanes, severe storms, earthquakes, tornadoes, hazardous materials incidents, mass casualty incidents, active assailant, and pandemic disease or outbreak. When creating a school EOP, schools collaborate with their local government and community partners.

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Site Assessment

Site Assessment

A site assessment examines the safety, accessibility, and emergency preparedness of school buildings and grounds. Critical aspects of an assessment include a review of building access and egress control measures, visibility around the exterior of the building, structural integrity of the building, compliance with architectural standards for people with disabilities and other access and functional needs, and emergency vehicle access. Site assessments should be completed in accordance with any state legislative or statutory requirements.

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Staff and Faculty Training

Staff and Faculty Training

Training familiarizes staff and faculty with emergency policies and procedures, their role during an emergency, and how to provide training to students. Training may include presentations, seminars, or informal discussions developed by schools or districts. Guest speakers or presentations from security subject matter experts can be beneficial. Providing checklists, flip cards, or other updated reference material may also help with training efforts. 

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Student Training

Student Training

Student training is training that’s developmentally-appropriate, trauma-informed, and designed for a student’s specific grade level. Training may include presentations, seminars, instructional training, or informal discussions. Training should be developed by the district or school and delivered by teachers and staff. Providing checklists, flip cards, or updated reference material may also help with training efforts.

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Exercises and Drills

Exercises and Drills

Exercises provide a low-risk environment to test capabilities and familiarize staff, faculty, students, and community partners with their roles and responsibilities in the school’s Emergency Operations Plan (school EOP). They also strengthen efforts to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from threats and hazards facing the school. Exercises may be discussion-based, like workshops, seminars, and tabletop exercises. Exercises can also be operations-based, like drills, functional exercises, and full-scale exercises. Drills are used to validate a specific capability in the school EOP, provide training, or practice skills. Schools conduct drills specific to their EOP, like evacuation, lockdown or shelter-in-place, accounting for people, communications, reunification, continuity of operations, recovery, security, and public, medical, and mental health.

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Recovery Plans

Recovery Plans

Recovery plans make up a section of a school’s Emergency Operations Plan (school EOP) and are tailored to a school’s facilities, population, and geographical area. The EOP planning team should develop plans for academic recovery, physical recovery, and fiscal or business functions recovery. They should also develop plans for psychological and emotional recovery, like social, emotional, and behavioral recovery. Recovery plans describe what happens in the hours, days, weeks, and months after an incident occurs.

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