Guest Post: Eric Holdeman, Blogger for Emergency Management Magazine
Planning, Preparing & Actively Working Toward Safer Schools
Planning plays a key role in the preparedness process. All-hazards planning is the best avenue to take with some special precautions for specific hazards like a workplace violence event. With the unfortunate circumstances we are faced with these days, having written plans for how to handle an active shooter incident, to include lockdown procedures, is one key aspect; however, plans are not enough. School staff, including teachers, administrators and facility and support staff need to understand their roles. Orientation sessions for staff is critical so they understand the plan. After planning and preparing, announced and unannounced drills should be scheduled so both students and staff are familiar with how to react as safely as possible. Drills also provide “muscle” memory for everyone. These physical rehearsals with all people participating is a great way to provide a calm atmosphere when there is a dangerous incident ongoing.
Part of the preplanning that is needed is with your first responder community partners. This includes not only police, fire and medical services, but also emergency management officials, if possible. These officials can validate your plan to ensure the choices you are making are the safest ones possible for different situations your school may encounter. For different parts of the nation there will be different concerns, for instance, portions of the United States have more risks from earthquakes, while others may be located in areas of the nation where tornadoes are a significant hazard. The response to each situation might be varied by the time of day and where students and faculty are located on the school campus.
School safety continues to be a primary concern for many communities across the United States. One common thread with school shootings is in the aftermath. We always hear someone close to the incident say, “I never thought it could happen here.” In reality, most mass shootings in schools have not been in urban areas, but in suburban and rural communities. Never make the assumption that just because your school is in a small and close knit community that it can’t happen to you.
Following every incident that a school experiences, no matter if it’s a natural disaster, hazardous material spill, or a shooting, administrators never regret the time or effort they put into preparing.
Eric Holdeman is the former Director of King County, WA Office of Emergency Management. He currently hosts a show called Disaster Zone TV and writes a blog titled Disaster Zone for Emergency Management Magazine.