K-12 Safety Experts Share School Emergency Response, Recovery, and Reunification Best Practices

K-12 experts share emergency response best practices

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School emergency management is an active exercise that gets refined as research is conducted, lessons are learned, and most importantly, experiences are shared with others.  

Raptor recently led a two-part panel discussion with K-12 school safety experts, Michelle Gay (Co-Founder and Executive Director, Safe and Sound Schools), Paul Timm, PSP (Vice President, Facility Engineering Associates), and Mark Williams (Board Chair, Partner Alliance for Safer Schools). 

In part 1 of the conversation, they discussed emergency prevention, protection, and mitigation (check out the conversation here). Part 2, which is summarized below, shares best practices in response, recovery, and reunification. You can listen to the full webinar here. 

Emergency Preparation Depends on Drills and Technology

People will respond to emergencies one way or another. “A lot of it will depend on the circumstances, but most of it will depend on how much practice [schools have] given them,” Michelle claims. “Taking the time to do thoughtful preparation, education, and practice…is how we get to a better response.” 

Emergency response also depends on what tools and technology the school community has. Mark recommends schools consider what their safety and security systems enable them to accomplish, paying special attention to how it will help first responders. “As we all know, adversarial events tend to happen very quickly and they’re over very quickly,” he says, “And the sooner we can get help to those in need the better the outcomes are.” 

School Safety Protocols Make Sure Everyone is on the Same Page

“A shared language, a common language, is essential,” Michelle explains. “There should be, in terms of our protocols, standardized agreed-upon language…that’s been put into policy and that’s been practiced over and over again so that everybody knows it when they hear it.” 

“I think common language starts by bringing all the stakeholders together and meeting on a regular basis,” Mark claims. “It’s informing [them of the emergency operations] plans, which are living documents…That’s what I think is so important in order to develop that common language.” 

A Streamlined Process Helps with Parent-Student Reunification

One of the first steps is understanding what everyone’s role is. “There are really two tiers of critical roles,” Michelle begins. “The top tier is really going to be all of those incident commander roles.” Under that tier are the people on the ground, those who are implementing and managing the reunification process. “And if you keep going, you have another kind of group,” she continues. “That would be our parents and our community members…What’s their role? Where do they fit into this? What do we expect of them and how are we going to prepare them?” 

Reunification is a complex process that some schools are hesitant to begin planning. “If [schools] wait until [everything is] perfect, which of course there is no such thing, [they’re] never going to get this off the ground,” Paul says of schools who push off planning to address other safety gaps. “It’s really important to make sure that we’re going down [this planning process] ahead of time and not during the incident.” 

Recovery is an Essential, Challenging Process

Michelle summarizes recovery perfectly: “Recovery’s always going to be messy. It’s always going to be very emotional and very challenging. It’s going to be fraught with mistakes and lessons learned, but it’s going to be about moving forward.”  

After emergencies, it’s important for schools to debrief and analyze what went well and what needs improvement. Mark is quick to remind us, “This is where our best practices come from.” Schools should also make sure to educate everyone on the lessons learned and build them into their processes and protocols. 

Follow More Best Practices to Stay Safe

To hear more best practices, make sure to listen to the full conversation here.      

When it comes to emergency preparedness, response, and recovery, using the right technology can make all the difference. Raptor Emergency Management helps schools manage drills, respond to any size incident, connect with first responders, account for individuals on campus, and reunite families. 

To learn more about Raptor, contact us today for a personalized demo.