Emergency Management Teams, Necessary for Schools & Districts
School & District Level Teams are Key to an Effective and Timely Response
Your district likely has district level emergency management teams, but does your school have their own emergency management team? There are many similarities and few differences between the two, but they are both necessary to an effective emergency response at any school. The two teams work together as a hierarchy system which balance each other out, and reduces the stress that accompanies any incident by spreading responsibilities out over many people.
First lets look at the district level emergency management team and their roles and responsibilities. Typically the district level team is composed of board of education members, superintendents, security officers, communication personnel, and therapists who are used for debriefing and counseling depending on the incident. They are responsible for handling the press and media during and after an incident at any school in their district. The district level team will contact the families of those injured, if applicable and handle the legalities that may arise due to an incident or emergency. The district level should also review each schools’ response plan drills for effectiveness and amendments, if needed.
The school level team has a similar pool of individuals who are appointed such as teachers, school level administrators, parent organization members, school safety personnel, and maintenance. During an emergency, they are responsible for enacting and following through with school level response plans such as evacuations or shelter in place. The school level team communicates with parents/guardians via an emergency alert/notification system that is in place about the incident and directions for reunification or pick up. They also send updates about the progression of the incident, as details are available. They are also responsible for practicing their response plans annually with drills and keeping a log.
Many times during an event at a school, the school emergency management team takes the lead and executes plans they have in place, while the district level team is available for support and keeping confusion to a minimum by taking over some responsibilities like media and legal issues. Both the district level team and the school level team will work closely with different first responders and should be trained on how to communicate with them and how the Incident Command System operates, including how it relates to them receiving information during an incident.
When it comes to communication, the lines need to be open and abundant between the district team and the school team. Sometimes, the district level team will not be at the scene during an incident, and a relay of information will need to be made frequently with updates and steps being taken to mitigate the situation. Information between the two levels should be concise and the roles and responsibilities met as expected by both teams to provide efficiency in execution of plans and effectiveness in terms of response.
Simply having a district level emergency management team is not enough to effectively respond to an incident at an individual school. The school itself must have their own safeguards and teams set up to respond to an incident, whether it be an active shooter or a medical emergency. Both level teams are necessary to have a controlled and safe incident that it is mitigated quickly. Responsibilities and clear, expected roles are key to a successfully managed event. Does your school and district both have competent emergency management teams? If not, begin creating one and being more prepared to respond to emergencies and events at your school.