High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans

Why an EOP is Important:

SchoolSAFE takes an all-hazards approach to school safety. What does that mean, exactly? It means that any event that can potentially disrupt the school day is something our solution can help improve. How does a district prepare for any and all emergencies throughout the district? School emergency operations plans, or an EOP, are a necessary place to start. Understanding and planning how, who, what, and where in an even can bring together the community and can help manage expectations so that when a crisis does happen, the schools and district are prepared. Having a team prepared for any and all situations at the district and school level is a no-brainer. Specifically, high-quality school emergency operations plans will ensure that the plans are tailored to a specific school and a specific district for a potentially better outcome.

Where to Start

Firstly, when writing high-quality school EOPs, it is important to consider the role of communication in ensuring the safety of students and staff. According to the Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans by the U.S. Department of Education, effective communication is essential for the successful implementation of an emergency operations plan. The guide highlights the importance of establishing clear communication protocols and ensuring that all stakeholders are aware of their roles and responsibilities during an emergency situation.

Understandably, starting to write or improve upon your district’s emergency operations plans can be daunting if plans don’t exist yet. In Colorado, the School Safety Resource Center provides helpful resources to start or improve your emergency operations plan. Helpfully, these resources include communication protocols and procedures for documenting incoming and outgoing communications, as well as the importance of community partnering. Having high-quality school emergency operations plans start with education and allocating time.

How Does SchoolSAFE Fit?

The SchoolSAFE Program improves communications between schools, districts, public safety, and other community partners. A large component of our program includes training to improve said communications. Regular drills and training ensure all stakeholders are well-prepared to respond to emergencies. This will help reduce potential panic and confusion during a crisis and improve the overall effectiveness of the emergency operations plan. A team that communicates well during an emergency is a major asset to a school. During our trainings, we review scenarios that focus on the utilization of a school’s existing plans. We help make your communications plan high-quality. Click the “Contact Us” tab or button to get in touch, we can help.

Planning Meeting of a High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plan

Community Partnering

The SchoolSAFE program enables a two-way radio connection between first responders and school officials during an emergency. The comprehensive training program partners with schools to provide user-specific training in emergency communications management, empowering community partnering with first responders.

The program is also Colorado’s SAFER Grant compliant, providing hardware, software, and training to each school district. The SAFER Grant provides true radio interoperability for first responders and school districts, funding the state-wide initiative. Over 500 installations have been completed throughout the state and we are constantly training best practices at all of our schools and districts. We strongly encourage each school’s leadership to reach out to the local fire station, for each district to get in a room with first responders – this is community partnering.

For example, we had one school place numbers on the top of each exterior door to help the fire department know where to go in an emergency. The Battalion Chief pointed out that the numbers would be better placed at the bottom of the doors in the event of heavy smoke. The Police Chief was also interested in the door numbering system for their knowledge and ability to respond. Because of one meeting, safety protocols and a general understanding was improved for all parties involved in an emergency. We all want our schools to be safer, with each stakeholder working to have the best response. A great place to start is getting these key stakeholders in the room together.

Community partnering at its finest.

Do you need assistance in getting the ball rolling? Contact us and we can help get you started.

What to do after a school shooting

The Robb Elementary School Shooting: Navigating the Aftermath

Yesterday’s Robb Elementary School shooting is absolutely devastating. As we navigate the emotional process today, we know and want to share that there are resources to help you and your family and/or you and your school/community. We work with people who have been involved in a school shooting. These events hurt; we are nearing decade two of working to improve school safety. Specifically, in the area of communications. We are one small piece in the school safety toolbelt, as we say, doing what we can to help make children safer.
Knowingly, children see and hear all forms of media. After events like yesterday, limitation to their exposure to the media’s coverage of a school shooting is necessary. Discussing said events with them is helpful and so is this article:
-How to talk to your children about a school shooting, by age: https://lnkd.in/dEJSewV

Fortunately, SchoolSAFE is in Colorado, a state that is very proactive with school safety. Take measures to improve safety in schools. These measures include whichever tool on the toolbelt the school needs. Funding helps schools get the necessary resources for a safer environment.

Please contact your local representative to advocate for improvement, contact members of congress; every voice matters. Not sure where to start? Click here.

This is a very small sample of what can be done to help. Thoughts and prayers are never enough but our hearts are with the town of Uvalde.

Get in touch with us to discuss further.

911 Dispatcher

School Personnel Call 911: What to Expect

What Schools Should Expect When Calling 911: A Dispatcher’s Perspective*

What to Expect:

School personnel call 911 for an emergency, but what should they expect? The dispatcher will need immediate information from the caller. The dispatcher enters information into a CAD system (Computer Aided Dispatch) and then dispatches to the appropriate responders. Wherever they may be calling from, the information needed is the same nationally. What’s the most important data to provide to a dispatcher when school personnel call 911? Location, Location, Location. If nothing else, a 911 communications center can send help to a specific location. Typically, the dispatcher will ask for the general location and then an exact location. The dispatcher will ask for a name and a phone number in the event of a disconnection. Next, the dispatcher will ask exactly what is happening. It is best practice to have a reporting party stay on the phone and answer necessary questions that are pertinent to the responders arriving to the school or nearby location. 

When to Call:

When it is in discussion that emergency services will respond to the school, whether inside the school or on school grounds, that is the time a 9-1-1 call should be made. We have had hundreds of trainings where public safety personnel reaffirm they prefer to respond to a false alarm than not be called at all.

Important Points to Remember:

Again: location, location, location. Depending on jurisdiction, meeting policies, and procedures specific to protocols, getting the location will be first and foremost and then the dispatcher will need to know the exact location. While each jurisdiction may ask in a different order, I believe it is necessary for the responders to know exactly where the incident is occurring. Along with the location and exact location is the caller information.  Name, phone number and reporting party location if different from exact location. Then the chief complaint or exactly what is occurring. 

911 Call Example:

School to Communications Center

Communications Center – 9-1-1 What is the location of Your Emergency?

School Response – Lincoln High school

CC – What is the address of the high school

CC Note: Even though the Comm Center may have the address, it’s good for the reporting party to verbally provide the address. The dispatcher may ask the caller to verify the address to confirm that what they have is correct.

School Response – 1234 Main St.

CC Note: You don’t have to provide City and State, however if the Comm Center dispatches for multiple City and County jurisdictions, the Comm Center may ask for the City or County. The Comm Center will dispatch resources once they have a verified location in their CAD system.

CC – Tell me exactly what happened?  

School Response – We have a student who has been hit by a car in the main parking lot.

Comm Center Note: Dispatch will update responders with exactly what is happening.

CC – The Comm Center then asks questions: how it happened, description of vehicle, and an update on student who was hit.  

CC Note: Take a deep breath and remember to speak calmly and clearly.

Additional Notes:

They may EMD the call if necessary. If the caller is in a safe location and can stay on the phone, the dispatcher will continue to get pertinent information and update responders until on scene. The school should try to have someone who can meet the responders to direct them where to go. If the SchoolSAFE connection is activate, this allows responders to talk directly with the school’s Incident Commander via radio, saving time and clarity. 

The Incident Commander is a chosen person who communicates with responders over the connection. This keeps multiple people trying to provide information to the responders. This may cause confusion and can tie up the radio with unnecessary chatter. Remember, the 911 call comes first, then the dispatcher determines whether or not to connect the responders to the Incident Commander.

The school safety team can help get more information to the Incident Commander, improving the communication flow. While the Incident Commander is talking to the responders on the radio, the 911 call can still be active. Or, the dispatcher may determine the situation is in good hands and hang up. The initial 911 call requiring outside resources, with good information about the incident, will have an effective and efficient communications dialog with an outcome that is suitable for all involved.

Want more information? Contact Us

*Cindi Dieck is a Public Safety Liaison with SchoolSAFE after spending 25 years with Public Safety. The last 10 years of her career was spent as a Communications Manager as well as an Adjunct Instructor in Colorado teaching Emergency Dispatch. She has been married to an LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) for 22 years and they have 5 cool dogs*