This plan successfully implements the four phases of crisis response needed to ensure as best an outcome as possible in the event of a crisis. The use of the charts is simplistic and provides clear instructions as to who the members of each planning and response team. The charts efficiently provide contact information for all of those involved, as well as recommended members. However, in order to provide a more detailed plan, these lists need to be updated regularly, rather than merely once during the planning phase, and such lists should be consistently checked for accuracy. Additionally, an alternative crisis response team would allow for a back-up plan in the event the original crisis response team is unable to fulfill their duties.
With regard to the School Mental Health Crisis Planning Team, this plan effectively sets forth an exhaustive list of local and school leaders that can assist those dealing with trauma during and after such crises occur. The plan utilizes not only school and local government officials, but also student leaders and parents, which are both positive additions to a mental health crisis planning team. It is important to note however, that a successful plan, particularly in the aspect of mental health services, should begin early. Those identified team members should be encouraged to create relationships with the school’s students ahead of any crisis, in order to create a trusting relationship, which is crucial during an actual crisis. Additionally, the use of the forms to tailor mental health services is a good addition and should be updated frequently to determine the most important goals, purposes, and the best way to obtain those goals and purposes.
Regular training and round-table discussion for all of those involved will assist school leaders with deciding the most ideal actions to take in the event of a crisis. Such continuous training will not only prepare those involved, but it will also allow continuous tweaking of the overall plan to determine what works and what does not work. A proper crisis prevention and response plan should be an evolving plan that continuously changes to meet the needs of those within the school and the overall environment. Thus, the beginning version should not be the end version.
Additionally, regular communication is necessary between those leaders within the school and those leaders within the community. Contact information for police departments and first responders may change periodically so it is important that these community leaders, among others, know exactly who they should communicate with in the event of a crisis. These leaders should also be included in the planning phases and should be provided up-to-date information on the school structures and property.
Very important, this plan appears to be somewhat out of date with regard to recent terrorism events, and other illnesses such as Zika viruses. Although such events may not be specific to this area currently, it is wise to include an understanding of such in a complete plan in order to be fully prepared. Some schools and school districts have been found to have two sets of plans: a comprehensive plan and a compressed plan. A comprehensive plan would detail all possible threats to that particular school or school district, while the compressed plan would limit the possible threats to those most probable in that particular area. Such plans should also include mental health services for crises that may not necessarily affect that particular school directly, but rather affects the school indirectly, such as the terrorist attacks of 9/11 or the events of Columbine, which left many on edge following the events. Regardless of the indirect effect, this is still considered a crisis.
As a couple of final items that could be revised to allow for a more complete plan, first, it would be wise to include instructions on a “reverse evacuation,” where students are outside where an event occurs and need to be returned inside for safety purposes. A “reverse evacuation” may then be followed by a lockdown procedure. Second, it would be wise to establish specific words that will be used during crises. Students should practice regularly the plans set forth and be aware of what is expected and how they should respond when certain words are used, such as “lockdown,” “evacuation,” etc.
This plan may also likely need to be revised in order to meet the linguistics and disability needs of each student. For instance, the plan may need to be drafted in multiple languages for students and/or families of students that are not proficient in English. And finally, providing the plan in different forms (i.e., clipboards for teachers, notecards for students, etc.) would help tailor all need-to-know information as it applies to the various individuals involved.
- The Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, U.S. Department of Education (2007). Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for School and Communities. Retrieved from: http://www2.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety/emergencyplan/crisisplanning.pdf
- U.S. Department of Education (2006): Emergency Response and Crisis Management (ERCM) Technical Assistance Center. Volume 2, Issue 8. Retrieved from: http://rems.ed.gov/docs/creatingplans.pdf