What is a School Emergency Action Plan?

A school emergency action plan is a business document that establishes all the necessary guidelines for all reasonably foreseeable emergencies that can happen inside the school. It also serves as an essential component of a particular school’s emergency procedures. The school emergency action plan should cover all bases, such as the procedures on mitigating and preventing emergency procedures, the steps necessary to prepare for a school emergency, what situations can develop or unfold during an emergency, and the appropriate plan to recover from the said emergency. This document also assigns roles and responsibilities to the faculty for proper implementation of the plan during an emergency.

For a school emergency action plan to properly work, it has to be well-developed and not just half-heartedly drafted for the sake of having one. Proper emergency training for the school faculty also has to be carried out for them to have a deeper understanding of their roles and responsibilities in an emergency.

What are the Key Components of a School Emergency Action Plan?

Since different schools have different layouts, a different number of buildings, and the amount of qualified staff, their emergency action plan also differs. However, for a school emergency action plan to properly work, it needs to have the following common key components in place:

Evacuation Procedures, Floor Plans, and Escape Routes. In case an emergency happens inside the school premises, it is important that everyone that is in the buildings of the school to know where to go, how to get there quickly and be deeply familiarized with the respective building’s layout. Depending on the emergency that is happening, the people in the building should exit the building quickly or go to a more secure area. An updated floor plan of the particular school building should also be indicated in the emergency action plan. The floor plan should clearly indicate all the routes and exits that can be used in the event of an emergency.Methods of Reporting. A school emergency action plan should also indicate the methods of reporting and alerting the appropriate personnel/authorities. Their respective contact numbers should also be indicated, although nowadays, they can easily be reached by simply dialing 911. It is also important that the school has a designated person who will call the needed authorities such as the police in an emergency.Methods of Alerting the Staff and Visitors. The action plan should also list the details on how to communicate to the school faculty and the visitors that an emergency is currently underway. The exact details will depend on the school’s layout and size, and also the type of emergency that is happening. Examples of alert systems include a fire alarm, an intercom system, ringing a bell, or blowing a whistle.Methods of Accounting for Everyone. The next key elements that should be included in a school emergency action plan are methods of regrouping and accounting for everyone. It is essential to know if a faculty or student is injured, missing, or has become a casualty in an emergency. For larger schools, the best method is to divide everyone into smaller, more manageable groups. In other schools, everyone can be grouped into departments or specific areas in the school. The important thing to remember here is that the method of organizing everyone makes sense for your school. To properly account for every person, you can keep a printed roster and make a roll call whenever you’re gathered at a safe area, or ask them to check in if they have arrived at a safer location.Methods of Notifying Relatives. After a school emergency has happened, it is also necessary to notify the relatives and the loved ones of the students and staff of the school that is involved. They can be alerted on their whereabouts or to come to pick their children up, especially if the students in the school are still relatively young. An effective plan will identify the person responsible for contacting the family members or loved ones and the information that he/she should give. It is also obvious to keep the contact information that is stated in the document updated.Identifying a Media Spokesperson. Some school emergencies can be high-profile which can result in a member of the media contacting the school in order to have something to report on. If such scenario happens, the emergency action plan should clearly indicate the appropriate spokesperson of the school who is the one responsible for handling all inquiries from the public and the media. It is important that the spokesperson should be trained in responding to sensitive inquiries and he/she must also know what information to say and what information to withhold from the public.Updates. The final key element that should be included in writing a school emergency action plan is the revisions to the document, the changes that the school has undergone such as updates to the floor plan, change of staff, newly constructed/renovated buildings, new programs that are implemented, and so on. These things can have an impact on the effectiveness of an action plan.

Types of Emergencies That Can Happen in a School

Here are the types of emergencies that can happen in a school, some of which are more severe than the others:

Step by Step Process in Preparing a School Emergency Action Plan

Now that you are familiar with what a School Emergency Action Plan is and the various types of emergencies that can occur inside the school, here are the steps you can follow to prepare an effective school emergency action plan:

Step 1: Identify every possible emergency scenario that can happen.

The first step in creating an emergency action plan is to identify the types of emergencies that can occur inside the school premises. It can include everything such as fire emergencies, weather emergencies, natural disasters such as earthquakes, and something extreme like gang violence, active shooters, and bomb threats. It is important to not limit your response planning within the facility’s boundaries, as there are some external factors that can also contribute to emergencies. In writing an emergency action plan for the school campus, you also need to consider how each unique scenario impacts the facility and list all possible effects it has.

Step 2: Identify what to do and list down the tasks.

Understanding and identifying the various emergencies the school campus can experience helps with determining the appropriate actions you want the faculty and the students to take. No single emergency situation is simple and taken lightly, and you cannot just tell your employees to pack up and leave when everything seems chaotic. Clearly defining the possible and suitable response also helps with their safety. You should also list here the steps that the faculty should do should an emergency take place. In writing down the tasks, it is important to make them as simple and achievable as possible. If possible, add deadlines and/or milestones to ensure that the tasks are done and to keep track of the progress.

Step 3: Assign evacuation areas and familiarize the optimal evacuation routes.

Designating safe evacuation areas where the faculty, non-teaching staff, and students meet after an evacuation is of utmost importance. Also, creating alternative assembly points is recommended in certain situations wherein the primary assembly point is deemed too hazardous or has been compromised by the emergency that just occurred. Aside from an alternate assembly point, include various routes in case the pathways are blocked or unsafe. Having these secure locations is useless if anyone cannot reach them or if they suffer injuries along the way. It is important to double-check all the evacuation routes toward the assembly points created frequently to avoid possible obstructions and ensure that the way remains safe.

Step 4: Always account for every student and staff.

Create an effective system that guarantees every person on the school campus whether he/she is a faculty or a student is well accounted for after an immediate evacuation. You can assign team leaders for each floor or department to have an appropriate student or employee master list for verification once everyone has arrived at the designated evacuation area. For locations that use access cards or security verifications, guarantee real-time records for faster validation. One of the best ways to account for everyone is through implementing the buddy system, wherein the faculty workers or students pair up with one another and are responsible for knowing the whereabouts of each other.

Step 5: Create or prepare an appropriate emergency response drill.

The best way of doing response drills is to create a schedule. It is difficult to propose a response drill if every teacher is too preoccupied with lesson plans or school projects. Before issuing the exercise, take note of the location and the number of participants joining. If setting up drills is out of the question, holding a meeting with small teams within the faculty room and discussing the appropriate evacuation plans with the students after the said meeting can serve as an effective alternative approach. In doing so, you can emphasize the importance of evacuation. It also serves as a way to help the teaching faculty and staff understand their roles whenever they are being gathered at a safe evacuation area during an emergency.


What should the parents do when preparing for a school emergency?

The best thing that a parent can do is to be an advocate for their children. They can ask the teachers about the safety measures that the school has put in place for emergencies. They can also ask about how frequently the school officials meet with the safety experts to tackle about safety measures. The main thing that a parent can do is to make themselves aware of the information that is shared with them.

What are active shooter drills?

These drills are performed in order to prepare students and let them know what to do in case an active shooting takes place inside the campus. These drills require students and staff to remain on lockdown in a designated area and practice specific emergency procedures such as staying silent, locking the door, and completely turning off the lights. They can also include distracting the shooter, evacuating the area, and fighting back. In some cases, active shooter drills can be unannounced.

After the emergency occurs, what should the parents do?

The first thing they can do is to provide emotional support and look for signs that their kid wants to talk to them. They should also be aware of the signs that their child is in distress such as changes in their behavioral patterns, development of anxiety, irregular sleeping and eating habits, and problems with their school work.

On a school campus, most days come and go without any concerns regarding safety. It is important to know that while having a plan for dealing with an emergency is important, the steps for prevention should also be not neglected. It is important to be prepared for the worst scenario while hoping for the best, even if a school day goes on normally. In this article, examples of an effective school emergency action plan are provided to you for personal use.