I was sitting in a meeting the other day and the subject turned to everyone’s worst nightmare – an emergency after school. A client – who shall remain nameless unless he chooses to comment on this blog post – said “they live their lives in the PM”. And it’s a story we all know, too well.
During the school day, we have a relatively consistent population with reasonably consistent expectations. If there’s a fire, our Head of School, Division Directors, Facilities Team, Security Team, Librarian, Faculty, Staff and students will probably all be there. I’m leaving out a bunch of people, I realize, but that’s my point – during the day, we have more people than we know what to do with (generally).
For those that live their lives in the PM, there’s an expectation from many admin teams that you’ll know what to do, how to do it and when to call for help. Let me help you do just that.
1) “First On”
a. During the day, we use a system called The “Incident Command System”. It works well and for schools, generally, we assign teams in advance, train them and expect most – if not all – of them to be around when the emergency happens (from 8 to 3 anyway). After school, we have to change gears. We don’t know who’s on campus, who’s not and we certainly can’t rely on those early risers to stick around – unless we can.
b. Set up a “first on” model, meaning that the first person to become aware of an emergency is the Incident Commander. It’s their job to then assign the next person to the next role they deem fit. You can assume that you’ll need your ‘regular’ teams to be setup eventually (i.e. Search & Rescue, First Aid, Etc), but it’s up to the Incident Commander (self-appointed at times) to determine which are the highest priority at the beginning and throughout the evolution of the emergency.
a. If you’ve ever done an emergency preparedness training, people probably have run up to you and said, but “wait! What do we do after school if an emergency happens?”. Unfortunately, we normally practice our emergency drills from 8-3. In fact, data backs up the fact that we normally practice our drills from 10:30 – 2:05. So, you know, emergencies only happen from 10:30 – 2:05, right? Quite the contrary. After school and before school pose vulnerabilities that we don’t face during the school day. Your gates are open. You have hundreds – maybe thousands – of parents on campus. You have extra vehicles on campus driving… erratically at best.
b. Practice! Setup at least 2 drills per year that are in the after school hours to give that team an opportunity to practice. Have them go through the process of reverse attendance (that is, taking attendance for who’s there and trying to use process of elimination, logic and really good guesses in some cases to try and figure out who’s on campus).
c. Build. Build a system that works for capturing those who are expected to be on campus after school. Your obvious groups are athletics, drama, library, but think through the groups that might be unique to your campus or even unique to a specific time of year. Do you have honors science students assembling an experiment until all hours of the night in the Spring? Or, do you have students in tutoring on campus before the end of the term? Build a process and protocol that puts anyone who you expect to be on campus onto a list that you can use to take attendance.
Planning for any emergency after school hours can be challenging given how different a campus looks outside of “normal” school hours and is often relegated to last on the priority list. Our challenge to you is to take time today and get a draft plan together for your safety team. It often takes just this first step to get the ball rolling.
-Chris Joffe, CEO and Founder