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


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The school core planning team will need to decide how it will respond to each threat and hazard in varying circumstances — what course of action(s) it will take. Courses of action are protocols and procedures that address the what, who, when, where, why, and how for each threat, hazard, and function. Courses of action include criteria for determining how and when each response will be implemented under a variety of circumstances. For example, courses of action will provide detailed instructions for the many evacuation routes for all classrooms.

The goals, objectives, and courses of action developed for specific threats and hazards will eventually go into the Threat- and Hazard-Specific Annexes section of the EOP, which outlines the specific goals, objectives, and courses of action for protecting the school community before, during, and after a possible natural hazard or threatening event. While the goals, objectives, and courses of action developed for functions may be activated for many different threats and hazards, those will eventually go into the Functional Annexes section of the school EOP.

District’s Role

The school district should work with schools to develop customized courses of action at each school. Additionally, the school district elaborates on and describes how the district-provided goals and objectives are to be used and customized by the school core planning team.

Because courses of action should be customized for each school, the primary responsibility for developing them resides with school core planning teams. However, districts can support the school planning teams’ efforts in three key ways:

  1. Districts can create a model set of goals, objectives, and courses of action. Alternatively, districts can provide schools with a minimum set of courses of action, along with information related to the feasibility, capabilities, and limitations of those actions.
  2. They can work with school core planning teams to help ensure that each school’s courses of action are coordinated with other schools across the district. For example, the district may be required to coordinate specific family reunification sites for schools; if multiple schools identify the same location as their respective site, these schools might overrun the site if all convene at once during a districtwide emergency.
  3. Districts can contribute to developing courses of action by informing schools of what support, services, and functions the district will provide in certain scenarios. For example, in the event of an emergency, the district may always coordinate school buses. In any threat, hazard, or function that may require transportation using school buses, districts can let schools know how they will support any school bus transportation needs.

Courses of action are typically developed using “scenario-based planning.” This approach prompts planning teams to consider different scenarios for how incidents involving threats or hazards may unfold to develop a comprehensive set of courses of action. See an example of a type of scenario that may be used in scenario-based planning.

Scenario-based planning, described briefly in Step 2, Task 2, typically includes these four steps:

  1. Depict the scenario. Create a potential scenario based on the threats and hazards identified and prioritized in Step 2.
  2. Determine the amount of time available to respond. This will vary based on the type of threat or hazard and the scenario. For example, in the case of a hurricane, the school might have days or hours to respond before the storm makes landfall, while the school may have to respond in minutes during an active shooter/aggressor situation.
  3. Identify decision points. Decision points indicate the place in the time line, as threats or hazards unfold, when leaders anticipate making decisions about a course of action. Walking through each scenario in detail will help identify the relevant decision points for each threat or hazard, such as whether to evacuate, shelter-in-place, or lockdown.
  4. Develop courses of action. Planners develop courses of action to achieve their goals and objectives by answering the following questions:
    • What is the action?
    • Who is responsible for the action?
    • When does the action take place?
    • How long does the action take, and how much time is actually available to perform the action before the school is confronting the hazard?
    • What must happen before a potential emergency?
    • What happens after a potential emergency?
    • What resources are needed to perform the action?
    • How will this action affect specific populations, such as individuals from religiously, racially, and ethnically diverse backgrounds; individuals with limited English proficiency; individuals with cognitive and/or physical disabilities; individuals with mental health needs; and individuals with other access or functional needs? What resources are needed to best support these individuals? The district should work with school core planning teams to develop customized, site-specific courses of action for addressing the goals and objectives that the schools have selected from the district’s master list of threats, hazards, and functions.

The district should consider the following when developing policies and procedures for courses of action for threats, hazards, and functions:

  • The degree to which the district will provide guidance, training, and support to school core planning teams regarding the development of courses of action
  • How the district will help ensure that the courses of action developed by school core planning teams contain enough site-specific details
  • The extent to which the district will provide examples or minimum requirements for schools to consider while developing courses of action
  • How the district will help to ensure that courses of action for different schools are coordinated with one another
  • The extent to which the district will provide courses of action for the support, services, and functions that the district will provide to a school in any given scenario (for example, the district will always take over business processes and payroll if a school is incapacitated and must activate its COOP Annex)

School’s Role

Based on the policies and procedures established by the district, each school core planning team should be able to develop customized and site-specific courses of action that address each threat, hazard, and function.

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