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Step 6: Plan Implementation and Maintenance

Train Stakeholders on the Plan and Their Roles

Everyone involved in the plan needs to know her or his roles and responsibilities before, during, and after an emergency. Key training components include the following:

Hold a meeting.

At least once a year, hold a meeting to educate all parties on the plan. Go through the plan to familiarize these stakeholders with it.

Visit evacuation sites.

Show involved parties not only where evacuation sites are located, but also where specific areas, such as reunification areas, media areas, and triage areas, will be located.

Give involved parties appropriate and relevant literature on the plan, policies, and procedures.

It may also be helpful to provide all parties with quick reference guides that remind them of key courses of action.

Post key information throughout the building.

It is important that students and staff are familiar with and have easy access to information such as evacuation routes and shelter-in-place procedures and locations. Ensure that information concerning evacuation routes and shelter-in-place procedures and locations is effectively communicated to students, staff members, and parents with disabilities as well as others with access and functional needs, such as by distributing the materials by e-mail in an accessible format.

Familiarize students and staff with the plan and community partners.

Bringing community partners (e.g., law enforcement officers, fire officials, and EMS personnel) that have a role into the school to talk about the plan will make students and staff members feel more comfortable working with these partners.

Train staff on the skills necessary to fulfill their roles.

Staff members will be assigned specific roles in the plan and positions supporting the Incident Command System (ICS) that will require special skills, such as first aid, threat assessment, and provision of personal assistance services for students with disabilities, and others with access and functional needs. Also, substitute teachers must be trained on the plan and their roles in the plan.

Exercise the Plan

The more a plan is practiced and stakeholders are trained on the plan, the more effectively they will be able to act before, during, and after an emergency to lessen the impact on life and property. Exercises provide opportunities to practice with community partners (e.g., first responders, local emergency management personnel), as well as to identify gaps and weaknesses in the plan. The exercises below require increasing amounts of planning, time, and resources. Ideally, schools will create an exercise program, building from a tabletop exercise up to a more advanced exercise, like a functional exercise:

  • Tabletop exercises: Tabletop exercises are small-group discussions that walk through a scenario and the courses of action a school will need to take before, during, and after an emergency to lessen the impact on the school community. This activity helps assess the plan and resources, and facilitates an understanding of emergency management and planning concepts.
  • Drills: During drills, school personnel and community partners (e.g., first responders, local emergency management staff) use the actual school grounds and buildings to practice responding to a scenario.
  • Functional exercises: Functional exercises are similar to drills but involve multiple partners; some may be conducted district-wide. Participants react to realistic simulated events (e.g., a bomb threat, or an intruder with a gun in a classroom), and implement the plan and procedures using the ICS.
  • Full-scale exercises: These exercises are the most time-consuming activity in the exercise continuum and are multiagency, multijurisdictional efforts in which all resources are deployed. This type of exercise tests collaboration among the agencies and participants, public information systems, communications systems, and equipment. An Emergency Operations Center is established by either law enforcement or fire services, and the ICS is activated.

Before making a decision about how many and which types of exercises to implement, a school should consider the costs and benefits of each, as well as any state or local requirements. For example, while a tabletop exercise may be less costly and less time-consuming to run, a full-scale exercise provides a more realistic context for the simulated response to an emergency situation, thus providing more constructive feedback to improve the plans. If students are involved, the school should also consider the age of the student population when selecting the appropriate exercise. Schools should also consider whether to include parents and should take into account the cultural diversity of their populations when designing exercises and training.

To effectively execute an exercise.

  • Include community partners such as first responders (law enforcement officers, EMS practitioners, and fire department personnel) and local emergency management staff;
  • Communicate information in advance to avoid confusion and concern;
  • Exercise under different and non-ideal conditions (e.g., times of day, weather conditions, points in the academic calendar, absence of key personnel, and various school events);
  • Be consistent with common emergency management terminology;
  • Debrief and develop an after-action report that evaluates results, identifies gaps or shortfalls, and documents lessons learned; and
  • Discuss how the school EOP and procedures will be modified, if needed, and specify who has the responsibility for modifying the plan.

For additional information on conducting exercises, please see the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program Guide.

Review, Revise, and Maintain the Plan

This step closes the loop in the planning process. It focuses on adding the information gained from exercising the plan to the research collected in Step 2, starting the planning cycle over again. Remember, planning is a continuous process even after the plan is published. Plans should evolve as the school and planning teams learn lessons, obtain new information and insights, and update priorities.

Reviews should be a recurring activity. Planning teams should establish a process for reviewing and revising the plan. Many schools review their plans annually. In no case should any part of a plan go for more than 2 years without being reviewed and revised.

Some schools have found it useful to review and revise portions instead of reviewing the entire plan at once. Schools may consider reviewing a portion each month or at natural breaks in the academic calendar. Certain events will also provide new information that will be used to inform the plan. Schools should consider reviewing and updating their plans or sections of their plans after

  • Actual emergencies;
  • Changes have been made in policy, personnel, organizational structures, processes, facilities, or equipment;
  • Formal updates of planning guidance or standards have been finalized;
  • Formal exercises have taken place;
  • Changes in the school and surrounding community have occurred;
  • Threats or hazards change or new ones emerge; or
  • Ongoing assessments generate new information.

The planning team should ensure that all community partners (e.g., first responders, local emergency management staff) have the most current version of the school EOP.