A shortcoming in preparedness, often identified during assessments by SEC, is a lack of training past the initial chaos of any crisis. Loved ones and family members responding to the scene of any actual or perceived crisis, especially involving children, are going to have emotions at a fevered pitch. The desire for immediate, accurate information by these well-intentioned individuals is going to be even more prevalent this school year. No one managing or in charge of a scene should expect anything less.
An excellent example of what should be expected sadly played out on August 12th in El Mirage Arizona. Video footage showed anxiety levels at their highest, with school administrators and law enforcement officials tasked with managing individuals showing raw emotions – anxious for information and resolution – but also belligerent and aggressive. An individual’s concealed handgun fell to the ground, obviously creating additional panic in an already very crowded volatile situation with the initial suspect still being sought.
Considerations for any emergency crisis plan should include but not be limited to the following:
- An expansive outer perimeter that provides enough space for emergency responders to work and focus on the task resolution at the event
- Control points on that outer perimeter to maintain scene integrity – the larger the outer perimeter the better
- Primary and secondary off-site evacuation sites, properly prepared, that will also facilitate assembly points for loved ones and family members for re-unification
- Resources that are available to facilitate movement to the off-site evacuation site(s)
- Sufficient personnel to meet, brief and keep loved ones and family members informed in person and via text on a regular basis – this should include a PIO(P) component to deal with media
- Sufficient process for student / staff / visitor accountability
- Sufficient process for re-unification
- De-escalation & verbal communication training for staff
- Designated emergency responder liaison
- Sufficient process for mobilizing other district or partner resources to augment staff that are “plug and play” because of identical training and procedures
Seemingly now more than ever, the public is questioning emergency responder tactics and capabilities. This could lead to highly charged confrontations at the scene that only compound and worsen the situation. Working in advance with emergency responders in the form of communication, drills and non-enforcement presence on site can foster support and confidence that is helpful when a crisis occurs.
Preparedness and a robust communication component well past the point of the alert and initial response, are going to be necessary to help successfully navigate these very challenging events.
SEC can assist with this and all aspects of crisis preparedness – do not wait for an event to happen to try and figure out how to work through it.