School Emergency Response

Posted: November 26th, 2013

School Emergency Response

Emergency management encompasses the practice of ameliorating as well as avoiding risks in any setting. Most schools in the modern world have embarked on emergency management for the maintenance of the well being and safety of the students, staff, faculty and visitors in the event of an emergency (Brunner & Lewis, 2008). Emergency management encompasses a thorough integration of effective and efficient emergency response plans, whose aim is to ensure that the institution at hand is ready to respond susceptibly to the disaster in an effective manner. Emergency plans as adopted by schools, outline the procedures to be followed in case of any emergency or accidents that can result from human error, natural causes or equipment failure. This ensures that the safety and well-being of the school community is maintained as well as the fact that school activities and programs are not disrupted. There is an emergency response plan of El Paso Independent School District and recommendations that can be provided to improve the plan.

El Paso Independent School District is one of the school districts that have embarked on different emergency plans that are improved every year with the aim of ensuring a quick response to emergencies in the schools that make up the school district. To operationalize its plan, the school district has embarked on extensive emergency preparedness training with local first responders as well as school administrators to ensure that the safety and the well being of the staff and students in the different schools in the district are protected at all times from emergencies (Frumkin et al, 2006). These trainings are based on the stipulations contained in the different emergency plans adopted by the El Paso Independent School District. Before these trainings can be carried out, the conduction of onsite vulnerability and threat assessment training for the school staff is carried out with the aim of determining the risks that each school in the district is exposed to.

Following the above procedure, a comprehensive review and update of the District’s Emergency Response and Operations plan is articulated with an extensive and comprehensive incorporation of the risks that the different schools are exposed. This enhances the update of the emergency plans in accordance to the needs of the students and the staff in different schools in the district. After the review and update of the emergency plans, an intense training on the emergency response plans is provided for all school administrators in the presence of the El Paso Independent School District police, fire agencies as well as other first responders. This is to make sure that the first responders and the administrators, posses a clear understanding of their diverse roles and the means through which they can integrate these roles, for effective and efficient response on the onset of an emergency (Fyfe, 2009). El Paso Independent School District in the process of operating the emergency response plans has always sourced for the services of the Prepared Response inc., which is a leader in crisis management and emergency preparedness.

Prepared Response has provided the district with the Rapid Responder, which allows the first responders with the use of laptops to access instantly close to 300 specific site date points. This is with the inclusion of floor and site plans, tactical plans, geospatial and aerial imagery, staging areas, exterior and interior photos, utility shut-off, the locations of hazardous materials as well as all facilities evacuation routes. This ensures that all the first responders can react immediately on the onset of an emergency hence enhancing the well being and safety of the students and the staff (Gustin, 2007). The emergency plans for the El Paso Independent School District have been established for all the possible risks to ensure that the administrators and the first responders can manage to respond to the different emergency depending on the risk at hand. Due to the flexibility of the emergency response plans, the school administrators and first responders in the district managed to respond effectively to the swine outbreak though it was an unforeseen emergency.

The El Paso Independent School District recognizes the importance of maintaining the safety and well-being of the staff, students and the visitors of the different schools in the district. For this reason, the district has adopted different emergency plans to ensure that the schools administrators and first responses are aware of the methods that they can utilize when responding to emergencies in the different schools that make up the district. All the emergency plans are made up of two parts. The first part encompasses the executive summary, which is made up of the emergency communication that highlights the form of communication that can be utilized on the onset of a disaster (Prepared Response, 2007). The second part of the summary is made up of the emergency type, which identifies the common types of emergencies. The third part is inclusive of the emergency response leadership structure that identifies the leadership structure for the different schools in case of an emergency.

The fourth part is the emergency response leadership procedure, which explains the protocols and the leadership roles to be adopted by different leaders during then emergency. The fifth part is made up of the emergency operations centers. This identifies the command centers in the district in case of an emergency (Brunner & Lewis, 2008). The sixth part classifies the severity of all the emergencies. The seventh part covers the general instructions that should be followed in response to the twelve emergency levels that have been described in the plan in accordance to the stipulations and guidelines provided by Federal Emergency Management Agency. The last part of the executive summary encompasses evacuation that defines the general instructions to be followed in case of an evacuation.

The second part of the emergency plan includes the Emergency Preparedness Operating Plan, which provides a manual that stipulates the specific responses to be followed for such emergencies as bomb threats, fire and explosions. It also stipulates responses for hazardous material release, suspicious packages, adverse weather, major threat or incident in the Tri-state area, utility outrage, person needing assistance, serious injury and death, workplace violence, active shooter and hostage situation. In terms of emergency communications, the emergency response plans has been relying on the normal communication lines utilized by people daily such mobile phones and emails for communication during an emergency (Frumkin et al., 2006). Communications lines might be deemed inactive under different emergencies and for this reason, the district should adopt a specific mode of emergency communication. The district can establish such a system as ConnectED, which was adopted by the Marymount Manhattan College of Liberal Arts in 2007. This notification and broadcast alert system broadcasts instant messages, voicemails and email messages to the mobile phones of all members of the college community.

In this way, all the college community members are made aware of an emergency immediately after its occurrence. In the case of emergency communication on the part of the first responders, the district has in stalled the Rapid Responder, which enables the first responders to be aware of the different locations that an emergency can occur and the different evacuation routes that can be used during the rescue missions (Fyfe, 2009). The District’s emergency plans have identified 12 different emergency levels that might be common to all the schools in the district but it should also incorporate other emergency levels to ensure that all the first responders and administrators are well instructed on how to respond. The trainings that the administrators and the first responders received in 2009 went further in ensuring strengthening the use of response plans, but these trainings should be conducted on a yearly basis to ensure that new administrators are informed on the contents of the plan.

The emergency response plan encompasses three emergency levels with level one incorporating emergencies that do not pose a threat to the personnel such that the existing resources can successfully quell the risk posed in this case the Crisis response team need not be activated (Gustin, 2007). Level two encompasses an emergency that affects a large part of the school community. For this emergency to be successfully quelled external assistance is required. In this case, a part of the crisis response team is activated through the instructions of the Incidents commander. A level three emergency requires the suspension of normal school operations and it requires the activation of the full Crisis Response team. The levels stipulated are in accordance to the guidelines of FEMA. The emergency response leadership structure starts with the incident commander, executive council and the Crisis Response Team.

The structure was established in accordance to the stipulations of FEMA, but owing to the fact that an emergency can occur in any school, the leadership structure should be adopted in accordance to the different schools in the district (Prepared Response, 2007). The emergency   response leadership procedures are designated in accordance to the leadership structure. In this case, it is recommended for the district to first instigate the leadership structure in accordance to the schools before the leadership procedures can be designated. The plans describe different emergency operations centers in the district, but some of these centers are very far from some of the schools in the district. The district should therefore identify additional centers that are close to different schools to ensure that operations are conducted effectively in case of an emergency. The evacuation centers identified susceptibly in the plan are efficient for all the schools in the district. The second part of the plans describes the actions to be taken in response to the 12 emergency threats identified. This part has described the responses efficiently but responses to other threats should also be incorporated.

Emergency response plans make part of emergency management, which is a discipline that ensures the avoidance and amelioration of risks and disasters. Emergency response plans have been adopted by different institutions, school districts and the nation as a whole to maintain the safety and well-being of the people involved. El Paso Independent School District is one of the school districts in Texas that has established different emergency response plans to ensure that the staff and students of the schools in the district are always protected in case of emergencies (Fyfe, 2009). The district in 2009 embarked on a training of school administrators and the first responders on the emergency response in accordance to the district’s emergency plans to ensure that in case of an emergency, the two parties are aware of their roles and how they can integrate their roles for effective response. The emergency plans adopted by the district are flexible such that they can be applied to other emergency types that are not inclusive of the twelve incorporated in the plans. In conclusion, though some recommendations have been made for the improvement of the plan, overall the plan is very effective for emergency response.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Brunner, J. & Lewis, D. (2008). Safe & Secure Schools: 27 Strategies for Prevention

            and Intervention. London, UK: Corwin Press.

Frumkin, H., Geller, R. J., Rubin, I. L., & Nodvin, J. (2006). Safe and Healthy School Environments. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Fyfe, A. (2009). School Resilience Planning. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.

Gustin, J. F. (2007). Disaster & Recovery Planning: A Guide for Facility Managers. Lilburn, GA: Fairmont Press.

Prepared Response. (2007). El Paso Independent School District Conducts Extensive Emergency Preparedness Training to Protect Students and Staff. Retrieved from http://www.preparedresponse.com/media/press/press66.html

 

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