Policies And Procedures
We talk a lot about risks, threats, and preparedness at schools on the Invictus blog. If you’ve been around this blog for any length of time, you know that we think having an Emergency Operations Plan is a critical part of keeping faculty and students safe at school.
Today I’d like to talk about what happens if there is an emergency after school hours are over but when children and staff are still on campus. Lots of things go on after classes are dismissed for the day – sports teams practice, visitors come on campus to attend sporting events, school clubs meet, faculty meetings take place, teachers prep and plan, and students use the playground equipment. Your Emergency Operations plan should take these types of activities into account.
Sporting events are a particular concern that probably require a specific Emergency Playbook within your Emergency Operations Plan. Sporting events are unique because you have numerous visitors on campus to watch the event and an away team on campus to participate in the event; money may change hands at the concession stand; vehicular traffic is increased on campus; staff on campus (e.g., coaches, guards) may be different than the school-day staff; and people may inadvertently wander into school buildings in search of a restroom. Simply put, sporting events pose challenges that are different from the challenges of a regular school day and therefore need to be planned for separately in your emergency planning.
Relaxing your security program once the dismissal bell has rung is poor policy. Teachers deserve to be kept safe even if there are no children left on campus. Athletes and club members and the faculty, staff, and coaches that work with these children deserve to be kept safe after the dismissal bell. Don’t forget to include after hours activities in your emergency planning, please!
We are currently in the midst of tornado season here in the southeastern United States. Most tornadoes occur between March and June in the United States, although they can and do occur at other times during the year as well.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the 2017 tornado season is off to an active start, with over 570 tornadoes reported through the end of April.
In terms of preparedness, it is important to remember that tornadoes can disrupt transportation, power, water, gas, communications; cause flash flooding; and of course destroy houses and other buildings. Preparedness is critical both at your home and at your workplace.
As a reminder, a tornado watch indicates that an area is experiencing severe weather that may be capable of producing a tornado; a tornado warning indicates that a tornado has been sighted. Look to see if your community or county or state has a text or email alerting system for emergency notifications.
FEMA’s ready.gov website has a section about tornado preparedness that can help you with personal preparedness in your home. They suggest things as having an emergency kit at your home, creating a family communications plan, and practicing seeking appropriate shelter. You can download their pdf How to Prepare for a Tornado guide for more details. The American Red Cross also has a preparedness checklist that you can download and use.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is a good resource for tornado preparedness in the workplace, since OSHA is tasked with making sure that employers provide a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. At a minimum, workplaces should:
- create an Emergency Action Plan
- identify shelter locations in the workplace
- train employees on how and where to seek shelter in the workplace
- establish a system to warn employees of a tornado watch or warning
- establish a system to know who is in the building in the event of an emergency
Personal preparedness is a good place to start to make sure you’re safe in your place of work. If you’re prepared and know what to do at your home, you’ll be better prepared to know what to do if a tornado strikes while you’re at work.
Open campus – two of the most important words when independent schools advertise to prospective new families. “Come, join our school family and you can visit your child on campus at any time of day, pop in on their classrooms, have lunch with them, and let them leave campus if they’re seniors.” How inviting and appealing to prospective families!
Here at Invictus Consulting we are absolutely in favor of the things that open campuses foster – parent involvement, increased accountability and openness, increased community in the school, and freedom for older students. We think those things are positive and create great schools. With that said, an open campus is a security liability, and the aspects an open campus foster can be achieved while at the same time maintaining a safe learning and working environment.
Here at Invictus Consulting we are big believers in training and drilling.
We believe that all staff / employees should go through active shooter training. We’ve talked about CRASE (Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events) training before on the Invictus blog. What often gets overlooked as organizations coordinate training for their people is the training of third party security guards or off-duty police officers. While the assumption is that any security guards you hire are already well trained, we have frequently found that they are rarely trained on an organization’s specific emergency procedures. Training your staff on your Emergency Operations Plan is important, but if you don’t include security guards, you run the risk of confusion during an emergency where people may rely on security guards to handle the situation but the security guards are unaware of the organization’s policies and procedures about handling a situation.
We also think that the appropriate staff / employees at your organization should be properly trained on the functionality of any security management systems like cameras, electronic access control, burglar alarms, door prop alarms, and mass notification. What we have found at many facilities is that third party security guards are stationed at the main entrance or tasked with roving the facility and grounds but do not directly operate security management systems. Instead, it is secretaries or front desk staff (not security staff) that have been tasked with direct operation of the security management systems. The mismatch between those tasked with security and those tasked with operating the security systems often leads to confusion about who is watching CCTV video, who is in charge of alarm annunciation, and who is presiding over other security-related issues.
The point we’d like to make here is that it’s important you don’t forget your third party security personnel or off-duty police officers when training your people and when drilling your emergency plans. These people are important cogs in the machinery of emergency operations, and we urge you to include them to the appropriate degree in your emergency preparedness. The appropriate degree of inclusion of third party personnel in your organization’s procedures varies with the size of organization, type of organization, type of facility, and any other number of factors. We are not here to tell you to what degree you should incorporate outside security personnel into your planning (or to what degree they should have access to your security management systems); we just don’t want you to forget their presence as you train and drill your staff.
In honor of Earth Day this coming weekend (April 22, 2017), we’d like to talk about reducing your paper footprint and going digital with your emergency planning.
We’ve talked here on the Invictus Consulting blog about the pros and cons of mobile devices during an emergency. Although there are certainly numerous dangers of cell phones and emergencies (e.g., spread of false information; missing of lifesaving directions if an individual is on their phone; overloading of phone lines; impeding lockdown procedures and reunification procedures), we are under no illusion that mobile devices will be banned from schools or corporate environments.
“If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!”
Because mobile devices are here to stay and they are increasingly prevalent in our lives, we think it wise to include the use of mobile devices in your organization’s emergency planning and preparedness. What this looks like will be different for each organization, and we are not here to advocate for any particular product, but it is worth exploring the idea of mobile devices and emergency planning.
There are many benefits that can be derived from including mobile devices in your emergency planning. These include:
- Online emergency plan – many emergency planning apps allow you to upload your Emergency Operations Plan to the cloud; this is a great way to make sure that the plan doesn’t get lost or filed away in some filing cabinet in someone’s office without anyone actually reading the plan; it’s also a great way to make sure that everyone concerned actually has access to the plan (with that said, making sure everyone involved has the plan does not ensure that they have all read the plan and understand their roles in an emergency – for that you will need to drill the plan)
- Instant update of emergency plan – by having your Emergency Operations Plan in the cloud, any updates made to the plan can be seen by users immediately; this is obviously preferable to an executive team making changes to the plan only for the updated plan to be filed away without being distributed to anyone (sadly we’ve seen this scenario many times)
- Instant communication with your team – hopefully your Emergency Operations Plan has been drilled by your Crisis Management Team and everyone knows their role and exactly what to do in various emergency scenarios, but incorporating mobile devices into your emergency planning adds an extra layer of communication during an emergency, allowing you to coordinate with your Crisis Response Team in real time; in fact, using communication via mobile devices should be included in your drilling
- Real-time updates during an emergency – many emergency planning apps allow you to update users in real time; the benefit here is that the Crisis Management Team can spread correct information before people potentially spread the wrong information (during a crisis, when people are scared and panicked, mis-information can spread quickly – even if the mis-information is not intentionally incorrect information)
- Mass notification – mass notification via mobile devices is often the best way to get information to people; after all, most people have their mobile device with them (or near them) throughout the day
- Crisis Management Team – we have come across many instances where an organization has a Crisis Management Team in place, but the only people who know about the team are those individuals on the team; incorporating mobile devices into your emergency planning can give people a way to know who is on their Crisis Management Team and give them a way to contact the team if necessary
- Contact list – this point is similar to the one above – namely that incorporating mobile devices into your emergency planning can give users a list of emergency numbers right at their fingertips
- Online building layouts – many emergency planning apps allow you to upload site layouts to the cloud; while nothing can replace having emergency exit maps located throughout your building(s) and drilling evacuation procedures, allowing users to have a map of their building at their fingertips can be helpful during an evacuation
Undoubtedly there are more arguments for incorporating mobile devices into your organization’s emergency planning. Whether or not you choose to make the transition, please send some time annually updating your Emergency Operations Plan.
The recent horrifying school shooting at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, CA is heartbreaking. Innocent children caught between the crosshairs of violence is a parent’s nightmare.
Preliminary details indicate that this was a domestic violence issue that spilled over into the workplace – the perpetrator was having a domestic dispute with his wife and went to her place of work with the intent to do violence to her. Because the school staff were familiar with the perpetrator (he was the husband of an employee), he was let into the school. Panicked parents raced to the school after hearing about the incident and many indicated that their children were too young to have cell phones, causing more panic and distress amongst parents.
As always, here at Invictus Consulting we are not going to Monday morning quarterback this situation – in other words, we are not going to criticize or assess how the school handled the affair.
We do want to give you a go-to resource for some topics we’ve discussed here on the blog before:
1. Domestic violence spilling over to the workplace (usually the workplace of the victim) is a major source of workplace violence
2. Avoid Deny Defend is an important preparedness exercise for active shooters
3. Special needs students should factor in to your emergency planning
4. Mobile devices and social media are a mixed bag when it comes to emergency planning
5. Understanding active shooters is important for preparedness
6. Visitor management is a critical part of security
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the North Park Elementary School community and the San Bernardino community during this tragic time.
Here at Invictus Consulting we train a lot of individuals on what to do if an active shooter is nearby (in your building, on your campus, in the same shop/venue). The basic premise of what we teach is to Avoid Deny Defend. We’ve written about this topic here on the blog before: Personal Crisis Preparedness; Lessons from Orlando; Active Shooter.
In brief, the principles of Avoid Deny Defend are: Avoid the shooter at all costs by escaping the area, room, building. Deny the shooter access to your location – hide, lock the door, barricade the door, turn off the lights, stay quiet. Defend yourself if the shooter gains access to your location by using any object on hand to attack the shooter.
The basic principles of avoid, deny, defend (sometimes called run, hide, fight) work in nearly every situation involving an active shooter. With that said, we do tailor our training session differently for schools versus office settings. The main difference is that adults in an corporate setting save and defend themselves, while adults in a school setting are tasked with saving and defending both themselves and the children under their care.
Practicing these steps is equally important for both groups, both those who are saving themselves and those who are saving themselves and those under their care. Individuals who are tasked with protecting others must also practice these steps with their students – there’s a big difference between running out of a building at full speed versus quietly and calmly escorting students out of a building. There’s a big difference between hiding yourself in a small utility closet and hiding a classroom full of children. There’s a big difference between a handful of adults attacking an active shooter versus a single adult surrounded by children attempting to attack an active shooter. While the principles of avoid, deny, defend are universal, it is important that schools and corporate environments drill the practice based on their unique situation.
Here at Invictus Consulting we have a great deal of experience with the first professionals to arrive at the scene of a crisis – first responders and SWAT teams. A behind-the-scenes look at how first responders and SWAT teams operate may help you as you think about planning and preparing for a crisis.
- 911 reaction time – The average response time for an emergency call is 10 minutes. This means that for the first few minutes after a crisis begins, the people onsite (e.g., employees, students, customers) are the first line of defense and response; in other words, people onsite may need to help severely injured individuals or help neutralize the threat. Counting on first responders and SWAT teams to arrive may mean that more casualties occur than necessary. In your emergency action plan, plan for this reality and make sure to train your employees and students on how to respond. Also, look here for a national review of 911 data collection.
- Local trauma beds – Do you know how may trauma beds there are at your closest hospital? What if the nearest hospital only has 10 trauma beds and your facility has 30 people that need trauma care? Do you know where the wounded will be sent and how to alert their families as to which hospital they’ve been taken? The ugly truth is that a crisis at your location may yield many more trauma needs than can be handled nearby. When we perform a risk assessment for our clients, we include a list of all hospitals within a 25-30 mile radius so that administrators and executives are aware of where the possible locations their people may be taken.
- First responders may step over you – It may surprise you to know that first responders may step over injured people; depending on the type of first responder, some are trained to proceed to the perpetrator and neutralize the threat before attending to the wounded, some are trained to seek out the most wounded first and may step over less wounded to find more wounded individuals, and some are trained to sweep the entire facility before attending to the wounded. So if you are one of the wounded and are lying near an entrance, you may actually be initially bypassed by first responders as they move towards their target. What this means in terms of emergency planning is similar to the first point above (911 response times), namely that the people onsite should be trained to provide basic first aid to other people while waiting for first responders to get to each of the wounded. Stop the Bleed is a DHS campaign to empower individuals to act quickly and save lives by teaching bystanders how to keep injured persons alive until appropriate medical care is available.
Some of the above information may scare you; take that fear and use it to update, improve, or create an emergency action playbook at your place of work, your school, your place of worship, or even your own home.