3 Key Strategies for Coordinated School Emergency Response

teacher walking students through hall

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Dr. Leigh Wall, former Santa Fe Texas ISD Superintendent, experienced a school active shooter tragedy first-hand. In a Raptor webinar, she shared lessons learned from that event and strategies for emergency planning, response, and recovery. A summary of the conversation is below. Listen to the full webinar on demand here 

1- Creating a School Emergency Operations Plan (EOP)

An emergency operations plan (EOP) is a multi-hazard plan for all events. “That’s everything from very minor to very major [scenarios],” Dr. Wall says. It includes prevention—like using a school visitor management system to stop unwanted entrants—as well as how you can lessen the impact of emergencies. Response and recovery are other key components of the EOP. 

The EOP should be a dynamic document that the school tests through drills and exercises. “The importance of the preparedness and the drills,” Dr. Wall shares, “is that people have an understanding of what they should do without having to go to the flip chart” or read through the EOP during the incident.  

It’s important to also work with the appropriate stakeholders within the community to develop, review, and revise the plan as needed.  

2- Creating a Crisis Communication Plan

“Communication is really the foundation for anything,” Dr. Wall shares. You need a plan to communicate internally with school leadership and staff, and a plan to communicate externally to parents and the media. The school should designate spokespersons to answer questions, as well as prepare standard messaging during the EOP development. A standard template, for example, is a clear message that you can send to all guardians with reunification location and other instructions.  

Dr. Wall reminds us that we cannot always control where the media obtains information or what the media will say. They will most likely speak to staff, students, guardians, and those who responded to the scene. She advises schools to inform the media that a school spokesperson will speak as information becomes available. During the Santa Fe school shooting, Dr. Wall and district leadership decided to publish press releases instead of speaking with the media directly. “We did our best to give as much information as we could [while] maintaining confidentiality and privacy.” It’s important to be transparent and informative, but to also provide facts. 

3- Using Tools for Coordinated Response and Recovery

Schools need the right tools to streamline emergency response and recovery. One of the most powerful tools is a mobile panic button that enables staff to initiate incidents from wherever they are locateddirectly call or text 9-1-1, and automatically share critical details, such as caller name and precise location on campus, with dispatchers. Ideally the panic button seamlessly integrates with an emergency management system that allows schools to conduct and manage drills, account for everyone on campus during emergencies, and reunify students with authorized guardians. 

Be Prepared with Raptor

“Knowing the Raptor tools,” Dr. Wall starts, “what I will say is I wish that I had [Raptor] then.” 

To learn more best practices for creating an EOP and emergency management, download our free ebook or contact us today to schedule a personalized demo