Creating Your School's Response and Recovery Plans
Vol. 16 No. 1
An important function of every school’s Business Office is helping create and maintain a crisis management plan. A truly effective crisis management plan has three parts: Prevention, Response and Recovery.
Many schools have created a Risk Management Team to oversee this function.
The Risk Management Team should include the School Head and a liaison from the Business Office. It can also include a member of your legal team, faculty and staff, local first responders, medical professionals, and knowledgeable parents.
This committee is tasked with reviewing the school’s operations, assessing the degree of risk exposure, evaluating and selecting prevention and mitigation risk management techniques, creating and communicating the plan, and assuring proper training occurs.
Let’s focus on the response and recovery aspects of your plan.
We’ve compiled a list of items that should be included in each of these plan types. Whether you’re creating your school’s first crisis management plan or are reviewing your current document, be sure to include these elements when considering response and recovery.
Response Action Plan
Consider the following when formulating a response plan in an evacuation situation:
- Use your quick reference electronic app (or manual “flip chart”) outlining who does what—with back-ups—in an emergency.
- Identify the area impacted (e.g., location of the fire or intruder).
- Have assigned staff notify first responders.
- Evacuate all students, staff, and any visitors.
- Have all meet at a preordained gathering point (away from the affected area and not in the way of response vehicles).
- Without endangering staff, make an attempt to control the situation (e.g., use of fire extinguishers, shut off the main gas valve if there is a fire, etc.).
- Perform, as safely as possible without endangering staff, a sweep of all areas to assure no one is still in the building. Use daily attendance protocol to confirm “all accounted for.”
- Designate a “last person to leave the building” who performs an “all clear” protocol. This person should have access to a system that shows who is on campus (students, faculty, staff, and visitors) to determine if anyone is missing. This helps safeguard first responders from unnecessarily searching for an individual who is no longer in the building.
- Have security safely posted at all doors to prevent re-entry until the “all clear” is given.
- Use a protocol for contacting key personnel who may not be on campus at the time of the event (e.g., if the Head is on vacation, or if a fire were to occur off-hours or on the weekend).
- Do not re-enter the building until properly trained personnel inspect it for safety and give the go-ahead.
- Have one person or a team of people prepared to meet the first responders
- When ready, follow reverse-evacuation procedures.
- Initiate the “risk communication/reunification plan” to parents.
Recovery Action Plan
The following should be considered for your recovery plan. These actions commence once the immediate danger is over.
- Gather the team to initiate the first-phase recovery procedures as soon as everyone is safe and authorities have given the green light to do so.
- Contact your insurance agent or company to begin the salvage and claims process.
- Document any losses, involving professionals as necessary.
- If classrooms are lost, begin to create alternative space (for example, a local university or library and/or space available on campus, such as a gym or auditorium, etc.).
- Depending on the severity of the event, create a plan for counseling services.
- Formulate a longer-term recovery plan if needed.
- Review the effectiveness of your crisis management plan and modify where necessary.
It’s critical to remember to manage communications during this process. Continue to share frequent updates with all stakeholders about what happened, the recovery process, and what to expect next.
Having specific response and recovery plans within your crisis management plan helps your team work quickly and efficiently should an unexpected event occur. The Business Office plays a key role in this process, so be sure to help your school prepare accordingly.
Dealing with a disaster, natural or otherwise, can be some of the most difficult work you do as a school administrator. We've provided a checklist for how private-independent schools can navigate the disaster recovery process, as well as administrative actions and position-specific duties you may want to consider. We hope that you are able to use them to get your school up and running as soon as possible, providing a safe haven for your students and a positive place for your community.
Additional ISM Resources:
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 3 No. 1 Crisis Planning–It’s Your Job
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 3 No. 2 Building a Risk Management Team (RMT)
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 3 No. 3 Four-Team Approach for Creating and Maintaining a Crisis Plan
Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 35 No. 12 Does Your Crisis Plan Really Protect Your Students (and School)?
I&P Vol. 35 No. 14 Developing Your Business Continuation Plan