What should a school or Nursery do if a crisis of some kind develops during the day when students and staff are in the building?
These crises can range from extreme weather to earthquakes to some other significant event that is out of the ordinary.
Crisis management refers to the structures that a school has in place should such an event occur. It is not part of regular emergency preparedness such as a fire or emergency evacuation plans.
A lockdown is a serious activity which might be part of a crisis management plan. Usually a lockdown occurs when a person who could harm students and/or staff comes into the school facility. Schools have to develop a plan of how to deal with such a situation. If a school has a PA system then a warning announcement is given, if possible. This warning announcement is prepared ahead of time and students and staff are trained to be alert for it. It usually takes the form of an expression such as “Code Red” or “Return to Classes”. It advises all staff and all students that they need to return to a classroom immediately and close the door. If possible the door is locked and lights are turned off. Students need to be taught the need for as much silence as possible so as not to alert the intruder to their presence. Administrative staff will be trained to contact police and other authorities for assistance in dealing with the situation. Training drills can take place for such an event.
When there is no PA system in place, then a system of alerting all staff needs to be determined so that adults can then guide children into the classrooms. This communication system must be prepared as part of the crisis management plan. Some key factors to consider are the safety of the children and staff and the level of the threat to their safety.
When the threat has been dissipated and no longer exists then an all clear should be given either through the PA system or by another system of communication.
Parents are an integral part of a crisis management plan. They need to be kept informed of what is happening and how it is being handled. Schools need to set up a form of communication with parents so that only relevant information is relayed to them. Sometimes social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. because rumours to start to spread and it is very important that only correct information be shared. Nowadays many schools have a form of mass communication through SMS or Apps that are the most reliable for passing on this pertinent information.
Schools should always have a media spokesperson so that again, only relevant information is shared with the public.
Maple Bear schools and Nurseries worldwide are required to have a Crisis Management policy in place. It is difficult to contemplate something so violent happening when young children are involved but unfortunately these events do occur in random places and at random times in many countries around the world.
We work hard to ensure the safety of all students and staff and a lockdown procedure that is relevant to the physical attributes of a facility is an important part of our crisis management policy and plans.
Written by: Janet Andrews, Regional Academic Director, Maple Bear Dubai UAE