EMERGENCY, CRISIS, AND COMMUNICATIONS PLAN FOR FACULTY
UPDATED: DECEMBER 1, 2009
Much of the success of effective emergency and crisis communications is predicated on the amount of work that goes into planning and preparing for a crisis event. What information needs to be in place, who makes decisions, who gives orders, and who follows them. What are the procedures for carrying out response initiatives? Following are general guidelines AACA will implement before, during and after a crisis should it be necessary.
Emergency - An urgent need that calls for immediate action such as a flu epidemic, student, staff or parent death, tornado or fire drill, natural disaster or building malfunction like a gas leak.
Crisis - An unfolding situation that has reached a critical phase with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome, such as school shooting or security breach, hostage situation or terrorism.
For the purposes of planning, AACA has considered the following types of different emergency scenarios:
SAFE ZONE/KEY EMERGENCY LOCATIONS
Following are the locations of key safe zones and equipment necessary during an emergency:
Emergency Communications Center :: Location
Primary Communications Center :: Principal's Office
Secondary Communications Center :: Main Office
Meical Staging Area (if needed) :: Oakdale Parking Lot
Media Staging Area (outside school) :: Oakdale Parking Lot, South of Rectory
Parent Staging Area (inside school) :: First Floor Classrooms
Parent Staging Area (outside school) :: Oakdale Parking Lot, Back Door
Inside Safe Site for Students :: Cafeteria
Outside Safe Site for Students :: Oakdale Parking Lot
Alternative Evactuation Site :: St. Alphonsus Church
First Aid Kit :: Main Office & Emergency Backpacks
Mr. Tom Newman
2. Music Teacher
3. K Assistant
2. Scott Arkenberg
Emergency Service Coordinator
Crisis Team Leader
Sweep Team Coordinator
Mr. Tom Newman
Asst. Prin. Office
AACA EMERGENCY PROCEDURES
The following section explains procedures to be followed in the event of an emergency at AACA. Detailed instructions are below for the following types of emergencies:
- Lockdown/ Shelter-in-place
- Fire Drill
- Tornado Drill
The recommended emergency protocols will remain the same for both drills and real-life events. Following the procedures are detailed crisis communications recommendations to follow in order to reach internal and external audiences.
When a situation requires AACA to go into lockdown (i.e. a nearby police situation for example), staff will implement the following procedures:
Bell signal - four 10-second bells spaced with a two-second interval
All students directed to closest classroom as soon as bell is sounded
Teacher Responsibilities (inside)
- Close and lock classroom doors
- Close and lock windows and pull shades
- Turn lights off
- Instruct students to sit on the floor in area as far from door as possible
- Keep students in class - students remain with you until you are notified to release them
- Do not call the office (using cell phone) unless emergency first aid is required
NOTE: If the emergency should occur during non-class time (lunch, activity, passing period), staff will direct students to move directly into the nearest classroom or the cafeteria.
- As a rule, fire drills are conducted on a monthly basis.
- Fire Drill Signal - a continuous alarm is sounded that is NOT a bell
- Be sure students move silently and orderly through the stairwells
- Take class list and emergency backpack
- Teacher should be the last one out of the classroom
- Give instruction to students to be line leaders
- Make sure all doors are closed
- Have your students walk to your designated area in a single file line
- Account for all of your students by taking roll
- If a child is missing,, send a student to an administrator to inform
- Wait for the all-clear signal (long bell or administrator hand signal) to return to class
- Walk students back to class in an orderly manner
- Two tornado drills are executed each year during the second semester.
- Tornado Drill Signal - two bells followed by a pause and repeated
- At the sound of the bells or the beginning of a tornado, teachers will instruct their students to proceed to the hallway and sit with backs against the wall with heads covered by arms
- An all-clear bell or a message on the intercom will inform teachers to begin to proceed to the cafeteria/basement
- Teachers will take roll and complete a Missing/Injured Student form if needed
- Teachers will take their class roll sheet and classroom emergency backpack
CRISIS AND COMMUNICATIONS PLAN
Following is a summary of the planning steps the school has and will undertake as well as the role the faculty and administrators have in responding to an emergency:
Planning & Preparation
Before a Crisis Hits:
- Identify how our community receives its news and establish a list of local media outlets, contact information and reporters
- Develop template news releases and fact sheets that can be quickly updated with information
- Identify and train spokesperson(s) to represent the school in fielding questions to the media
- Identify a spokesperson for internal communications as well
- Craft key messages on general school policies, mission, etc. and have readily available
The First 30 Minutes AFTER a Crisis:
What is done in the first 30 minutes of a crisis is crucial in determining people's perceptions of the crisis and how it was handled.
Step 1: Determine who will take charge. If principal is available, this role will be fulfilled by this
person. If principal is not available, follow the Emergency Management Team Roster
chart listed above
Step 2: Define the problem and understand the circumstances
Step 3: Consider the options; act decisively to ensure the health and safety of students and staff and protection of school property
Step 4: Receive communication from administration and update students as necessary
Step 5: Complete the crisis assessment report and complete it to aid in planning for the next 24 hours (see attached addendum)
- Brief description of crisis
- Actions completed
- What you project will happen in the next two hours
- What resources you need
Develop a Tool Kit of Essentials
Communicate to Internal Key Audiences
- Develop a preliminary statement - what's happened, what's the immediate response
- Develop a script for people answering phone calls
- Disseminate accurate information to staff, Archdiocese communications department and other schools
After the First Hour:
Step 1: Recognize one of your most important jobs in managing a crisis is to control the flow information, in and out.
Step 2: If the emergency has been handled during the course of the school day and didn't require an immediate response to parents, the administration will develop a letter to go home with studentsat the end of the day, explaining what occurred and what has been done about it. If needed, e-mail to parents to inform them quickly.
Step 3: If necessary, keep the community informed. To allay fears and demonstrate competence in handling the situation, get accurate information out through the news media and other methods such as your key communicators group.
Communicating with the Media
Journalists strive to answer six key questions in their stories: who, when, where, what, how and why. Recognize they will often try to interview more than one source for every story and try to get different points of view (for example, an administrator, teacher, parent and/or student). Also it is important to know that they most likely won't use the entire interview and may select a quote that may not be our first preference. Unless an egregious error was made, the media usually won't run a correction so it's important to be clear with the facts the first time and stick to the key messages. It is easy to stray and talk off the cuff but this can be dangerous.
- Know the school's communications goals and supporting messages
- If approached by the media and you are a designated media spokesperson, LISTEN to the question being asked, THINK about your answer and always try to deliver and re-deliver your message(s)
- Discuss what you know, not what you think
- Do not express personal opinions
- Don't speculate or try to respond to questions to which you don't know the answer
- Don't engage in off-the-record discussions
Sample AACA key messages may include:
Alphonsus Academy and Center for the Arts is located in the heart of the Lakeview area on the Northside of the Chicago and is a Catholic elementary school serving students from Pre-K through 8th grade. We have over 120 years of creating a faith-filled, academically enriched education to students.
We have a rich history of providing a safe, secure and challenging learning environment for our students at Alphonsus Academy and Center for the Arts. We will continue our dedication to this mission.
For the H1N1 flu:
We have taken this issue seriously and have encouraged our students and staff to practice good hand washing, especially on items in the classroom that are frequently touched like doorknobs and keyboards. However, we recognize the flu is easily spread and are asking staff and children to stay home if they have a fever of 100 degrees or higher. Alphonsus Academy and Center for the Arts is doing our best limit exposure to anyone who becomes ill at school by providing protective personal equipment such as masks to our school staff to wear when caring for sick children at school. We also enforce our policy of moving a staff member or student into a separate room if she or he becomes ill at school.
We are following the recommendations of the CDC and will continue to update our policies as necessary. For now, the best thing we can do is practice good flu prevention with frequent hand washing and staying home until flu like symptoms subside.
(Similar statements would be developed for other medically-related emergencies).
For student allergy or death:
Alphonsus Academy and Center for the Arts has a no-nut policy in place to avoid potentially life-threatening situations. Only a small percentage of our student population has indicated an allergy to nuts, but the school community as a whole has worked together to address this issue. Our goal at AACA has always been to provide a safe and secure learning environment and we will continue to work diligently to ensure this doesn't happen again.
Responding to Media Inaccuracies and Rumors:
If substantive inaccuracies (i.e., inaccuracies with potential to further a crisis or problem) occur, we should move very quickly to correct them. The longer misinformation remains viable in the information environment, the more difficult it becomes to correct.
- Keep the level of your response appropriate to the level of the problem.
- Overreacting to an isolated mistake will only attract attention to the very problem you are trying to correct.
- Under reacting to widely reported information that is not correct will only allow for a compounding of the error. (In this case a public statement or even a news conference might be most in order.)
- If a damaging rumor is confined to a small audience, correct it within that group, don't create a major public event.
- If a damaging rumor is widely known and spreading making it difficult to reach our communications goals should move aggressively and very publicly to correct it.
- When squelching a rumor, try to anticipate how the rumor might evolve in response to other efforts and be as thorough possible in closing off other avenues for future, similar rumors.
EVENING, DAY ONE: PLAN FOR THE NEXT DAY FOR ISSUES THAT AFFECT STUDENTS AND STAFF
Should the emergency warrant ongoing communication, staff can expect the following:
- A staff meeting will be held in the evening or an email will be distributed with answers to commonly asked questions such as:
- When/if school will be closed/re-open
- Where students and staff should gather
- Types of help needed such as volunteers for hotline, phone banks, media relations, family liaisons, etc.
- Determine key contacts to be made in the community, such as elected officials, former board members, hospitals, first responders, district leadership, principals, staff, parent, etc.
- Determine what help the school may need, such as volunteers for hotline, phone banks, media relations, family liaisons
Revise Media Protocols as Necessary
- If necessary, the school may solicit positive stories from staff or parents and determine additional spokespeople on staff to talk to media
AACA will activate the following steps to continue sharing relevant information with parents and staff. (Responsibilities will be assigned to staff for support as needed)
- An emergency Web site linked to the AACA homepage, with regular updates and links to resources for parents
- An updated email list for ongoing communication
- Updated voice mail messages at school offices with the latest information. The messages will be updated daily and include information about school activities, important phone numbers, etc.
- A daily fact sheet that is updated daily at the same time and delivered via the same method.
- A list of Frequently Asked Questions will be made available on the AACA website as well as in memo form to parents
Assign Volunteer Responsibilities
- The administration will appoint a staff member to identify volunteer needs and coordinate/assign volunteers to cover jobs, including:
- Staffing/answering phones (develop a color coded form for messages to distinguish those calls from parents/staff and those from media)
- Fielding media calls and answering those questions that are fact-based and deferring those looking for opinion
- Monitoring the media
- Providing food as needed
- Writing thank-you notes, etc.
AACA staff will provide support to families in the week following an emergency or crisis by:
- Holding informational meetings at school to answer questions and address concerns. If necessary, the school will provide a mental health expert to address post-traumatic stress.
- Working for a return to routine as quickly as possible and will determine when to resume extra-curricular activities and classes.
- Continuing to regularly update websites and voice mails and recruiting volunteers as needed.
Support Families by Providing Informational Meetings
- Hold a parent meeting at school to answer questions and address concerns.Have a mental health expert address post-traumatic stress. Provide handouts on mental health issues and information on long-term mental health resources.
- Provide safe places for students and parents to meet informally.Include planned activities (games, crafts) as well as mental health support.
- Staff will be involved in planning special events and back-to-school activities.
PLAN TO RETURN TO NORMALCY
- Administrators and staff will work toward a return to routine as quickly as possible, and determine when to resume extra-curricular activities and classes.
- The school will continue to provide regular, ongoing communications to parents and staff.Websites will be regularly updated, along with voice mail messages.
If the emergency required a closing of school for a prolonged period of time, the school will follow the guidelines listed below:
- On the first day back, staff will offer tours of the building, where students and their parents can return to school for a short time and feel comfortable.
- Staff will help parents and students feel safe by informing them of the presence of new adults in the building, such as police, volunteer door or hall monitors.Encourage parents to be in school as volunteer support as needed.
- The length of the first day and any necessary schedule modifications (i.e. start with an all-student assembly for example) will be communicated in advance to staff and the AACA community.
- The administrators and staff will work together to identify classroom activities to use with students.
AFTER THE CRISIS: EVALUATE YOUR RESPONSE
A team comprised of staff, administration and parents will evaluate each crisis response with a report to the board and a plan for follow-up. The report will answer the following questions. Did your crisis plan:
- Notify the appropriate people at the onset?
- Activate resources immediately to meet the needs of the students, families and staff?
- Provide regular information updates and maintain open communication with teachers, other staff and parents?
- Monitor rumors and maintain timely, accurate information?
- Speak through one spokesperson to provide factual information to the media?
- Develop media messages that communicated ways that parents can support the recovery of their children?
- Provide mental health resources if needed throughout and after the crisis?
REVISIT THE PLAN ANNUALLY Recognize the emergency preparedness and crisis response plan is a living document that must be reviewed on a regular basis in order to make needed modifications and improvements to the plan. Involve key stakeholders in the review process.
National Education Association, Health Information Network http://www.neahin.org/crisisguide;
National School Public Relations Association NSPRA's Complete Crisis Communication Management Manual for Schools(2nd Edition). (March 2004 Principal Communicator).