Do you need access to quick information from subject matter experts to enhance your planning efforts? Our Webinars feature audio- and video-enabled presentations from experts in the field of school or higher ed preparedness and are archived for viewing at any time.Access an Archived Webinar
Elements of the School Guide
Six-Step Planning Process
The School Guide presents a six-step planning process to develop school emergency operations plans (EOPs). The Guide serves multiple purposes, which include supporting schools as they create new EOPs, as well as helping schools maintain, expand, and improve existing EOPs.
- Step 1: Form a Collaborative Planning Team
- Step 2: Understand the Situation
- Step 3: Determine Goals and Objectives
- Step 4: Plan Development (Identifying Courses of Action)
- Step 5: Plan Preparation, Review, and Approval
- Step 6: Plan Implementation and Maintenance
The planning principles listed below are key to developing comprehensive, high-quality school EOPs. Incorporating these principles throughout the planning process and during the plan’s implementation will increase a school’s ability to carry out effective preparedness activities, provide efficient responses to a variety of threats and hazards, and implement an effective plan that protects the whole school community. It will also improve safety for the entire school community.
Planning must be supported by leadership.
At the district and school levels, senior-level officials can help the planning process by demonstrating strong support for the planning team.
Planning uses assessment to customize plans to the building level.
Effective planning is built around comprehensive, ongoing assessment of the school community. Information gathered through assessment is used to customize plans to the building level, taking into consideration the school’s unique circumstances and resources.
Planning considers all threats and hazards.
The planning process must consider a wide range of possible threats and hazards that may impact the school. Comprehensive school emergency management planning considers all threats and hazards throughout the planning process, addressing safety needs before, during, and after an incident.
Planning provides for the access and functional needs of the whole school community.
The “whole school community” includes students, staff, and visitors with disabilities and other access and functional needs; those from religiously, racially, and ethnically diverse backgrounds; and people with limited English proficiency.
Planning considers all settings and all times.
School EOPs must account for incidents that may occur during and outside the school day as well as on and off campus (e.g., sporting events, field trips).
Creating and revising a model EOP is done by following a collaborative process.
Lessons learned from experience indicate that operational planning is best performed by a team. Close collaboration and ongoing communication between and among schools, school districts, and community partners ensure the coordination of efforts and the integration of EOPs, including school, district, local, regional, and state plans.
These principles will facilitate the development of school EOPs, which can be organized into three sections:
- The Basic Plan section outlines the main features of an EOP and the school’s general approach to an emergency;
- The Functional Annexes section provides courses of action (such as details for evacuations and continuity of operations procedures) that may need to be used in a broad range of emergency situations; and
- The Threat- and Hazard-Specific Annexes section addresses responses to specific threats and hazards.
Basic Plan Section Format
The Basic Plan section of the school EOP provides an overview of the school’s approach to operations before, during, and after an emergency. This section addresses the overarching activities the school undertakes regardless of the function, threat, or hazard. The content in this section provides a solid foundation for the school’s operations
- Introductory Material
- Purpose and Situation Overview
- Concept of Operations
- Organization and Assignment of Responsibilities
- Direction, Control, and Coordination
- Information Collection, Analysis, and Dissemination
- Training and Exercises
- Administration, Finance, and Logistics
- Plan Development and Maintenance
- Authorities and References
To identify the risks posed by threats and hazards, planning teams can use a variety of assessments. These assessments will help school core planning teams identify which threats and hazards apply to their school from the district’s master list of threats and hazards that may affect any district school.
|Type of Assessment||Description||Purpose and Results|
|Site Assessment||A site assessment examines the safety, accessibility, and emergency preparedness of the school’s buildings and grounds. This assessment includes, but is not limited to, the following: (1) a review of building access and egress control measures, (2) visibility around the exterior of the building, (3) structural integrity of the building, (4) compliance with applicable architectural standards for individuals with disabilities and other access and functional needs, and (5) emergency vehicle access.||
|Culture and Climate Assessment||In schools with positive climates, students are more likely to feel connected to adults and their peers. This fosters a nurturing environment where students are more likely to succeed, feel safe, and report threats. A school culture and climate assessment evaluates student and staff connectedness to the school as well as problem behaviors. For example, this assessment may reveal a high number of bullying incidents, indicating a need to implement an anti-bullying program. If a student survey is used to assess culture and climate, student privacy must be protected. A range of school personnel can assist in the assessment of culture and school climate, including school counselors and mental health staff.||
|School Threat Assessment||A school threat assessment analyzes communication and behaviors to determine whether a student, staff member, or other person may pose a threat. These assessments must be based on fact; must comply with applicable privacy, civil rights, and other applicable laws; and are often conducted by multidisciplinary threat assessment teams. While a planning team may include the creation of a threat assessment team in its plan, the assessment team is a separate entity from the planning team and meets on its own regular schedule.||
|Capacity Assessment||The planning team needs to know what resources will be at its disposal. A capacity assessment examines the capabilities of students and staff as well as the services and material resources of community partners. This assessment is used to identify people in the building with applicable skills (e.g., first aid certification, search-and-rescue training, counseling and mental health expertise, and ability to assist individuals with disabilities and other access and functional needs). Equipment and supplies should also be inventoried. The inventory should include an evaluation of equipment and supplies uniquely for individuals with disabilities, such as evacuation chairs, the availability of sign language interpreters and technology used for effective communication, accessible transportation, and consumable medical supplies and durable medical equipment that may be necessary during a shelter-in-place or evacuation.||
Each comprehensive school EOP should include annexes. Each annex details goals, objectives, and courses of action for the schools that may be required before, during, and after an emergency. As the planning team develops these, it will find that certain critical “functions” or activities apply to more than one threat or hazard and, therefore, are cross-cutting — for example, providing medical care. After identifying these functions, the planning team should develop three goals for each function. As with the goals already identified for threats and hazards, the three goals should indicate the desired outcome for (1) before, (2) during, and (3) after the function has been executed. These commonly occurring functions will be contained in a “Functional Annex section” within the school EOP. Functional annexes include evacuation, communications, accounting for all persons, and recovery. As each school core planning team assesses its buildings’ needs, it may need to prepare additional or different annexes.
Also included in this section are issues the district and the school core planning team should consider when the district develops goals and objectives and courses of action for each function. While some of the most important functions are addressed here, the list of them is not meant to be exhaustive.
While these functions should be described separately, it is important to remember that many functions will occur simultaneously. For example, a shelter-in-place during an emergency may be implemented, but if the building is damaged, the school may initiate an evacuation.
Often, multiple functions will also be performed concurrently. For example, during an evacuation, once students are safely out of the building, the accounting for students, staff, and visitors will begin. The evacuation function, however, will still be in effect as staff or first responders work to locate and evacuate any persons not accounted for during the incident.
While functions build upon one another and overlap, it is not necessary to repeat a course of action in one functional annex if it appears in a second functional annex. For example, though an evacuation may lead to reunification, it is not necessary to list a course of action for reunification within the Evacuation Annex.
The district should consider the following when developing policies and procedures that guide schools districtwide in identifying functions to be addressed in their EOPs:
- What Federal, state, and local policies, recommendations, priorities, and lessons learned to consider and/or adhere to when identifying the functions that all schools in the district should address in their school EOPs
- The extent to which some schools need customized functions, and, if so, the process for identifying those functions
- To what degree, if any, school core planning teams will be involved in identifying cross-cutting functions
It is recommended that all EOPs include at least the following annexes:
- Evacuation Annex
- Lockdown Annex
- Shelter-in-Place Annex
- Accounting for All Persons Annex
- Communications and Warning Annex
- Family Reunification Annex
- Continuity of Operations (COOP) Annex
- Recovery Annex
- Public Health, Medical, and Mental Health Annex
- Security Annex
- Behavioral Threat Assessment Annex
A Closer Look
The “A Closer Look” section of the School Guide provides users with information on four key topics to enhance the implementation of school EOPs. These topics include
- Information Sharing, which provides an overview of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and the implications that these Federal statutes may have for information sharing in the emergency planning process;
- Psychological First Aid for Schools (PFA-S), which describes this type of aid and how schools can use it to help students, staff, and families during and immediately after a traumatic incident;
- School Climate and Emergencies, which describes how a positive school climate provides ready access to emotional and behavioral supports that can affect the capacity of students and staff to prevent, respond to, and recover from emergencies resulting from a variety of threats and hazards; and
- Active Shooter Situations, which describes unique challenges involved in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from a school-based shooting.