K-12 District Emergency Management Planning K-12 District Emergency Management Planning

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An Example For Scenario-Based Planning

This scenario provides an example for a possible emergency, which can be used to guide schools in developing the goals, objectives, and courses of action outlined under Step 4, Task 1. The scenario demonstrates the importance of developing comprehensive plans that allow the quick decisions often needed to save lives and reduce injuries.

  • Setting. It is 10:05 Wednesday morning, and school is in session. The temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the sky is overcast, and there is a light breeze from the west.
  • Incident. A tanker truck carrying an apparent hazardous material crashes into another vehicle on a road a few blocks from the school. The truck is leaking a yellowish gas that is hovering close to the ground.
  • +2 minutes. A motorist comes upon the crash and calls 9-1-1. First responders are immediately dispatched to the incident.
  • +8 minutes. Media has begun reporting on the tanker truck crash. Family members begin to call the school office to check on the status of their children. This is the first the school has heard of the incident.
  • +10 minutes. The principal calls police dispatch to get first-hand information. Dispatch verifies the crash and that they are still gathering information, but they do not tell the school how to respond.
  • +12 minutes. The principal assembles the school incident response team to assess the situation and determine an initial course of action: evacuate, shelter-in-place, or continue school as normal and wait for further instructions from 9-1-1. Decision Points:
    • Continue school as normal — A lot is still unknown in terms of the hazardous substance and if it will affect the school, but since the crash happened so close to the school, the principal determines that some sort of protective action should be taken as a precaution.
    • Evacuation — Due to the proximity of the crash to the school, the principal does not think he can get enough bus drivers and buses to the school quick enough to do an off-campus evacuation without putting students, staff, and bus drivers at risk.
    • Shelter-in-place — Due to the proximity of the crash, the school decides to take precautionary measures and implements a shelter-in-place to seal off the school from the possible contaminant.
  • +13 minutes. The school principal uses the intercom system to instruct staff to immediately implement a shelter-in-place procedure and seal their rooms.
  • +15 minutes. The custodian who knows how to turn off the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is out sick for the day. Thankfully, two other staff members were cross-trained to turn off the HVAC system and immediately begin that process.
  • +18 minutes. As classroom windows are being sealed, a teacher notices students outside on a field with their teacher, who is seemingly unaware of the incident. From a distance, it looks like some students might be coughing. The teacher immediately calls the office.
  • +20 minutes. In the office, phones are ringing nonstop, office staff are sealing their windows and doors, and plans are being made to deliver inhalers and other needed medications to students.
  • +20 minutes. The principal needs to decide what to do about the classes meeting outside. Decision points:
    • Have the classes and staff meeting outside been contaminated? Verify with school medical personnel if anyone needs medical attention.
    • Are other classes meeting outside?
    • How will outside classes be given emergency instructions?
    • Should these classes be returned to the building?
    • Should these classes do a walking “off-campus” evacuation?
    • Should the principal call 9-1-1 for assistance and advice?

Other considerations:

  • Medical needs. Who is responsible for delivering medical supplies to students who are in need? How is this done once rooms are sealed? Is there a mechanism in place to accomplish this before rooms are sealed? Is this practiced as part of the drills and exercise program?
  • Students and staff outside. The school forgot to notify students outside. Does this school have a mechanism for notifying those meeting outside? Does the intercom system reach to the field? Do teachers carry two-way radios when meeting outside? Who is responsible for notifying those outside? Does someone have to risk their life to go and notify them? If those outside are brought into the school, will they contaminate the school environment and make others sick?
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