Crisis Management for Early Childhood Programs
It is inevitable that school safety eventually becomes a topic of conversation whenever a group of school administrators are gathered in one place, Every school administrator I have ever had the pleasure of collaborating with has the same sentiment, “I wish we did not even have to think about these kinds of things.” I know that there are many opinions on whether or not people should be allowed to own guns. I do not wish for this post to be a debate on that topic as I think we can all agree that children should be free from the fear of violence in every part of society but especially in their schools. Unfortunately, in order to ensure that children, teachers, staff and families are safe, administrators must think through and consider every possible worst case scenario. I am talking about the things of which nightmares or bad television drams are made. We must take those worst-case scenarios and turn them into action plans. I will list some of these scenarios in a future post. Here are some of the tips I have used to help you prepare your crisis management plan:
· Collaborate with your local police, fire and emergency response departments. Get to know any educational liaisons assigned to your local departments. Invite them into your schools. Give them tours. They need to know your space. The children need to see people in uniform as sources of help and comfort. Familiarity during non-stress times will help if you find yourself needing support during a crisis.
· Develop a communication plan. I learned that depending on the severity of a crisis, law enforcement can and probably will disable cell services. Do not rely on your and your teachers cell phones to communicate important information during a crisis. In stead, look into two-way radios that can be programmed to work with law enforcement systems, if recommended.
· Practice! Practice! Practice! I can not stress this enough. You must practice crisis management drills. You should practice them with your staff and with the children. Staff should be familiar with protocols before they are responsible for practicing with the children. Do planned and surprise drills. I often do two fire drills with the full alarm. While the noise can be terrifying, I feel that children need to know what it sounds like and you need to know how they will react if it should ever unexpectedly sound.
Some of the drills I practice every year are:
o Fire –monthly; with the alarm twice per school year.
o Severe weather- twice per year
o Lock Down- -once per year
o Lock In- once per year
Are there any unlisted crisis management drills you practice? What protocols do you follow?