Continued from Part 1:
Response Action Steps include:
- Assess the situation and choose the appropriate response. Determine whether a crisis exists, and if so, the type of crisis, the location and its magnitude. Since your team has practiced the plan, leaders are ready to make the necessary decisions to rectify the situation. After basic protective steps are in place, more information can be gathered to adjust later responses. Prepare to be surprised.
- Respond within seconds.
- Notify appropriate emergency responders and the school crisis response team. Have emergency responders on the scene as soon as possible. This applies even if they arrive after the situation has been resolved.
- Evacuate or lock-down the school, as appropriate.
- Triage injuries and provide emergency first aid to those who need it. Your plan should assign emergency medical services personnel and school staff, with relevant qualifications, to determine who needs emergency first aid. Designate a location for EMS to treat the seriously injured on the scene.
- Keep supplies nearby and organized.
- Trust leadership. To minimize chaos, trust the internal crisis team members and external emergency responders who have been trained to deal with crises.
- Communicate accurate and appropriate information. During a crisis, districts and schools will communicate with the school community as well as the community at large. Use the channels of communication identified in the plan to do so to maximize the likelihood of presenting consistent and accurate information to the public.
The crisis team should also communicate regularly to staff members who are managing students. In addition, families need to know that a crisis has occurred and that all possible steps are being taken to see to the safety of their children. Additional details about the assembly and shelter procedures may also be provided, as determined by the plan or those managing the crisis. At some point, families will also need to be notified when and where their children will be released.
- Activate the student release system.
- Allow for flexibility in implementing the crisis plan.
- Write down every action taken during a crisis response to provide a record of the implementation of the plan. This is also necessary for recording damage for insurance purposes and for tracking financial expenditures related to the incident.
Recovery: The goal of recovery is to return to learning and restore the infrastructure of the school as quickly as possible. Recovery action steps include:
- Plan for recovery in the preparedness phase. Determine the roles and responsibilities of staff and others who will assist in recovery during the planning phase. District-level counselors may want to train school staff to assess the emotional needs of students and colleagues to determine potential intervention needs. It is wise to also review the credentials of service providers and identify those who will be used during recovery.
- Assemble the Crisis Intervention Team. A Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) is comprised of individuals at the district or school level who are involved in the recovery efforts.
- Return to the “business of learning” as quickly as possible. The first order of business following a crisis is to return students to learning as quickly as possible.
- Schools and districts need to keep students, families and the media informed. Be clear about what steps have been taken to attend to student safety when providing information. Let families and other community members know what support services the school and district is providing or what other community resources are available.
- Focus on the building, as well as people, during recovery. Following a crisis, buildings and their grounds may need repairing or repainting/re-landscaping. Conduct a safety audit and determine the parts of the building that can be used and plan for repairing those that are damaged.
- Provide assessment of the emotional needs of staff, students, families and responders. Evaluate and determine the emotional needs of all students and staff and identify those who need intervention from a school counselor, social worker, school psychologist or other mental health professional. Also, arrange for appropriate interventions by school or community-based service providers, and identify available services for families who wish to seek treatment for their children or themselves.
- Provide stress management during class time. Allow students to talk about what they felt and experienced during a traumatic event. Younger students, who cannot fully express themselves verbally, may benefit from participating in creative activities, such as painting, drawing or writing stories.
- Conduct daily debriefings for staff, responders and others assisting in the recovery. Ensure that those providing “psychological first aid” are supported with daily critical incident stress debriefings. This will help the staff cope with their own feelings of vulnerability.
- Take as much time as needed for the recovery. After a crisis, the healing process is full of ups and downs and may take months, and even years, to complete.
- Remember the anniversaries of crises. Many occasions will remind students, staff and families about crises, and will stimulate feelings and memories about the incident. Staff members should be sensitive to these reactions, and should provide support as necessary.
- By evaluating your recovery efforts, you will help prepare for the next crises that may arise. Conduct brief interviews with emergency responders, families, teachers, students and staff. Focus groups may also be helpful in obtaining candid information about recovery efforts. The following may be important to ask:
- Which classroom-based interventions proved most successful and why?
- Which assessment and referral strategies were the most successful and why?
- What were the most positive aspects of staff debriefing and why?
- Which recovery strategies would you change and why?
- Do other professionals need to be used to help with future crises?
- What additional training is necessary to enable the school and the community at large to prepare for a future crisis?
- What additional equipment is needed to support recovery efforts?
- What other planning actions will facilitate future recovery efforts?
Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)