As a standard part of operational planning, every organization needs a plan that takes an all-hazards approach to readiness. This means anticipating a wide range of possibilities—natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes, fire, acts or threats of violence, and outbreaks of serious illness. It’s up to the staff and faculty to know how to protect students from harm, guide them through a crisis, and make sure they are safe after it has passed. At the same time, the organization’s assets—including its facility, finances, technology, programs, and vital files—must be safeguarded.
Tailor both the process and the plan to your organization’s needs. Fortunately, strategies and tools from the worlds of education, the arts, and government are all relevant as you create plans and procedures that work for you. Your organization should review the procedures in its emergency plan at least annually and update them based on experience, changing risk factors, and new research.
Your written plan should be concise, user friendly, easy to distribute, and readily available to everyone in the organization. Every organization needs both a plan and a longer-range approach for expanding and revising segments of the plan based on internal and external changes.
- Evaluate risk. Assess the level of preparedness for emergencies across your organization. Do faculty and staff receive adequate emergency preparedness training? Are building access procedures adequate? Are there physical hazards to be addressed, such as instruments or equipment that might shift and injure people during a natural disaster?
- Decide what emergencies the plan will address. Local emergency management officials can give you information on the relative probability of natural disasters, hazardous materials accidents, terrorism threats, and other emergencies.
- Organize a planning team. Include administrative staff, program staff, and faculty representatives who are likely to be members of the emergency response team.
- Define roles and responsibilities. Outline staff functions during an emergency, and specify who will be in charge.
- Develop a communications plan. Decide how staff, students, families, the media, and the community will be notified when an emergency occurs.
- Update contact information. Maintain complete information for staff and families.
- Plan alternative response scenarios. Develop lockdown, shelter-in-place, and evacuation procedures.
- Provide training and information for staff. Make training mandatory for all staff and faculty—full-time, part-time, and volunteer. Experts recommend an annual review. Even when time and resources are limited, be sure they know their roles in emergency response.
- Give the plan to local emergency responders. Develop working relationships with these agencies so they’re aware of your needs in an emergency.
- Add appropriate information to the parent handbook. Make parents aware of procedures that affect them, especially those for retrieving their children from your building.
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- Build relationships with community agencies, including law enforcement, fire department, local government, public health and mental health agencies, and the media.
- Update student and family contact information frequently. Keep a second set of records offsite or online.
- Conduct safety audits of your facility as part of normal operations, at least every two to three years.
- Consult an emergency management professional to design a building access control policy, procedures, and system.
- Consider the unique needs of staff and students with disabilities when developing an emergency management plan.
- After an emergency, return students to their arts education routine as soon as possible.
- Assess the emotional needs of students, faculty and staff, and families and decide what services are needed.
- Keep families and the community informed about how you’re addressing student safety.
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