Creating a violence response plan involves assessing your school’s individual situation, determining how to respond, and practicing what to do if violence happens.
Your school may already have a plan for dealing with fire or weather emergencies. In many cases, you can modify that plan to deal with incidents of violence. Be sure to address the following topics in your plan:
Determine how you will communicate that people need to evacuate or lock down based on the size of your school. Could you use a public address system or assign certain people to deliver the message to various parts of the school? Could you communicate the threat via email?
Identify the staff members who will call the police if your school is threatened. Make sure each of them carry a cell phone at all times.
Post evacuation routes and procedures throughout the building and make sure teachers and students know where to meet after evacuating. Be sure to create a system for evacuating small children and people with disabilities, and determine how you will know that everyone has gotten out of the building safely.
Develop a plan with clear instructions on how to lock down different areas of the school if you are threatened by an outside force such as an active shooter.
Establish a plan for how injured individuals will be treated. Keep a stocked first aid kit in every classroom. Teachers should check regularly to make sure all items are available. All key volunteers and staff should be trained in first aid and CPR procedures.
How will you deal with a possibly overwhelming response from people concerned about the situation, including parents, the community, and the media? Designate one or more spokespeople who will work with each audience.
Create a current list of all people (on- and off-site) who will respond to a crisis, and be sure to include their responsibilities and 24-hour telephone numbers. Update this information regularly.
Regularly review and practice what you intend to do during and after an emergency. Ask someone from an emergency response agency to observe the drill and offer advice for improvement. Repeated practice helps people remember their roles and remain calm during an actual crisis. Drills can also identify problems in your response plan that could be prevented.
Your school staff and volunteers aren’t the only ones who need to know what to do during an emergency. If a crisis occurs, students and visitors will panic. They need to know the protocol for specific situations.
Parents instinctively will want to retrieve children from the building, but this may not be possible, and if it is, can result in chaos and delay. Regularly communicate your plan to parents so they understand how your school will protect their children during an emergency and know how to respond.
Just as your school changes over time, so do your preparedness needs. Make plans to review your plan at the beginning of each new school year (or more often if necessary) as well.
Work with a local attorney to review plans annually to ensure that all policies and procedures comply with applicable laws and maintain practices tailored to your school ministry.
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