Emergency planning: 9 tough questions you need to answer

Leaders are therefore tasked not only with preparing for the unthinkable—they must also be ready to address parents’ fears and answer their valid questions regarding emergency preparedness planning.
Jason Russell
Jason Russellhttps://secprotects.com/
Jason Russell is the founder and president of Secure Environment Consultants. A former Secret Service agent, Jason founded SEC in the wake of Sandy Hook to bring White House-level threat assessment and protection to schools and businesses. He’s a frequent speaker on safety and security and has trained thousands of individuals in critical incident response, de-escalation and behavioral threat assessment.

As we head deeper into 2024, fears concerning school safety are running exceptionally high among parents. According to a poll of parents taken at the start of the school year, 38% say they fear for their child’s safety at school. Although this is lower than the 44% of parents who said the same immediately following last year’s Uvalde school shooting, it is still the highest level of concern reported since Columbine, more than two decades ago.

School leaders and district administrators are on the front lines of keeping students and staff safe, and as we have seen far too often, tragedy can strike anywhere. Leaders are therefore tasked not only with preparing for the unthinkable—they must also be ready to address parents’ fears and answer their valid questions regarding emergency preparedness planning.

9 questions you need to answer

Parents are turning to leaders for information regarding school response plans for active violence. But you should also have answers ready regarding emergency responses to extreme weather events, fires, police activity, and more. And it should go without saying that those answers must reflect actual plans in place.

Here are the tough questions that parents want answered:

1. What are your emergency plans for different scenarios? Since sharing response details is viewed by experts as bad practice, you should not reveal specific plan measures. But you do have the responsibility to let parents know that plans exist, that they are regularly reviewed and updated, and that security experts have signed off on them.

2. What type of emergency training does your staff receive? You should be able to say that the school is prepared for all types of emergencies and that all staff members are regularly trained in these measures.

3. What is your schedule of drills? The scheduling of drills is something you should share with parents. They can then help reinforce learnings with their children and continue safety conversations outside of school. They can also help to reduce any anxieties around the drills.

4. How are before- and after-school activities addressed? As children spend more time on campus for sports, extracurriculars, and events, you should be able to tell parents that your security plans and procedures cover off-hours activities.

Listen to DA: ‘Talking Out of School’ podcast launches with our first guest, Randi Weingarten

5. Where should I plan to reconnect with my children if the school is evacuated? It is essential to include evacuation procedures in all information packets for parents, including where reunification will occur.

6. How do I securely access the school? Again, this is information that every parent should receive. Security-informed parents will respect that schools require robust security procedures to govern access to facilities.

7. How will the school alert parents in case of an emergency? Make sure to explain how you plan to manage notifications in an emergency. Parents may want to opt-in to alerts if the school offers different tiers of alert urgency.

8. What information will you provide to students around safety? Information about emergency procedures can be confusing and upsetting to students, especially younger ones, and parents often want to discuss these issues at home. Consider what you will share with students and make sure parents know what is available and when it is given to their children.

9. How is personal information handled? Data security is a critical aspect of the broader security conversation. Be ready to explain what personal information is stored, where it is stored, and how it is used.

Parents today have legitimate questions about their children’s safety at school. We must provide them with clear, accurate and reliable answers. In doing so, we demonstrate our ability to meet our greatest responsibility as school administrators and leaders — to protect the safety of those entrusted to our care.

Most Popular