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

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Task 1: Develop the Basic Plan

The Basic Plan section of the school EOP provides an overview of the school’s approach to operations before, during, and after an emergency. The content in this section provides a solid foundation for the school’s operations. See Elements of the School Guide for a full breakdown of what sections and subsections are recommended for inclusion.

District’s Role

Since at least one district representative serves on a school core planning team, almost all the information contained in the Basic Plan should be able to come from the planning team. If the planning team finds that it must go outside its members for a significant amount of information, this may indicate that the planning team membership needs to be expanded.

School’s Role

Each school is responsible for developing the Basic Plan section of the school EOP, which addresses the overarching activities the school should undertake regardless of the function, threat, or hazard.

Work With Schools to Create an Exercise Program

District’s Role

Ideally, the district will work with school core planning teams to create an exercise program, which allows all stakeholders to become familiar with the plans and be prepared in the event of an actual emergency. 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. Additionally, exercises offer planners information as to where there are gaps in the planning or training.

Exercises may range from basic fire and shelter-in-place drills to full-scale community-wide drills that realistically portray a crisis and show the role the school plays in school district and municipal planning. Examples of exercises include

  • Seminars;
  • Workshops;
  • Tabletop exercises;
  • Drills;
  • Functional exercises; and
  • Full-scale exercises.

See Training and Exercises for more information on training and exercises and detailed descriptions of these examples.

Districts should recommend that school core planning teams work with and involve community partners and local emergency management staff when planning, implementing, and reporting on the results of drills and exercises. Community partners may include law enforcement officers, EMS practitioners, fire department personnel, neighboring schools or districts, and other external partners, depending on the type of drill. Districts can also work with schools and community partners to ensure consistency with common emergency management terminology.

To ensure that both internal and external stakeholders (students, faculty, staff, and community partners) are not confused or concerned when a drill or exercise takes place, the district should encourage schools to communicate information in advance, including dates, locations, and times, with everyone involved and impacted. In some cases, that may include conveying information to families and the surrounding school or district community. If students are involved, the district should work with schools to consider the age of the student population when selecting the appropriate exercise. When families and surrounding community members are involved, the district and its schools should include participants reflecting the area’s cultural makeup.

Before deciding how many and which types of exercises to implement, the district should work with school core planning teams to consider the costs and benefits of each exercise, 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 is more like a real emergency, thus providing more constructive feedback to improve the plans. The district should also suggest that school core planning teams conduct exercises under different and nonideal conditions (e.g., during different times of day and points in the academic calendar, with the absence of key personnel, at various school events, and under different weather conditions). After drills and exercises are complete, the district should recommend that schools debrief and develop an after-action report that evaluates results, identifies gaps or shortfalls, and documents lessons learned.

Districts should address the following when developing policies and procedures:

  • The extent to which there are Federal, state, and local laws, requirements, or recommendations regarding the type and frequency of exercises
  • How an ideal exercise program is defined for the district, based on the threats, hazards, and functions addressed in school EOPs across the district
  • How much time and how many resources are available for exercises
  • The feasibility of conducting certain exercises
  • Which community partners should be involved in different exercises

Work With Schools to Establish a Process for Plan Review and Revision

District’s Role

The district should work with school core planning teams to establish a process for recurring reviews and revisions of the plans by the school planning teams. Many states have their own requirements related to the frequency of EOP updates, which districts should use as a guide when determining requirements for the schools. This District Guide recommends that no part of the plan go for more than 2 years without being updated.

Instead of reviewing the entire plan at once, the district should work with schools to periodically review and revise portions of the school EOP. Some schools find this approach useful. For example, the district can establish a system for schools to review a portion each month or at natural breaks in the academic calendar. Certain events will also provide new information that can be used to inform the plan. The district should consider having the school core planning teams review and update school EOPs — or sections of their EOPs — after the following:

  • Actual emergencies
  • Changes in policy, personnel, organizational structures, processes, facilities, or equipment
  • Formal and final updates to planning guidance or standards
  • Formal exercises
  • Changes in the school, district, and surrounding community
  • A change in threats or hazards or the emergence of a new threat or hazard
  • Ongoing assessments that generate new information

The district should also consider providing guidance or requirements to school core planning teams regarding the way in which school EOPs should be developed and updated. This guidance should align with all applicable Federal, state, and local laws.

Elements of the Basic Plan Section of the School EOP

Below are details on the elements recommended for inclusion in the Basic Plan.

Basic Plan
  1. Introductory Material
  1. Purpose and Situation Overview
  1. Concept of Operations
  1. Organization and Assignment of Responsibilities
  1. Direction, Control, and Coordination
  1. Information Collection, Analysis, and Dissemination
  1. Training and Exercises
  1. Administration, Finance, and Logistics
  1. Plan Development and Maintenance
  1. Authorities and References

For more information about the Basic Plan, see Elements of the School Guide.

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