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Crisis Planning, Response, and Recovery

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					   Crisis Planning Response & Recovery (RPM Dec 2012)
               Crisis Planning, Response, & Recovery

                                                                                          Risk Protection Memo (RPM)
                                                                                                 December 2012




In the wake of yet another school tragedy, we are              school identify the questions it must answer to
again reminded of the potential dangers that face              create the most effective crisis response and
our school campuses and communities. These are                 business continuity plan possible.
events that touch not only the affected
neighborhoods, but everyone throughout the nation.             2. Develop a road map from chaos to control.
Our hearts go out to all of the families coping with           Once it completes a risk assessment, the school can
the effects of this tragedy and we wish them the               begin creating a crisis management plan. While it
strength to persevere.                                         may be tempting to go online and download a
                                                               generic plan, this one-size-fits-all approach is not
Each crisis is unique, making it difficult to develop          always effective. It fails to recognize the unique
an all encompassing recipe for responding to a                 circumstances of an individual school, including
mass-casualty event. With that being said,                     geographic location, number of students,
experience has shown that there are some common                availability of local responders, level of
lessons that can help schools develop crisis                   preparedness, and available employee and financial
management programs.                                           resources.
This memorandum is not geared to be a                          The plan should be shaped by questions raised in
comprehensive guideline for crisis management, but             the assessment and be specific to the nature and
rather a facilitator for further action and review.            needs of the school. While available resources will
Vermont Emergency Management through the                       influence how elaborate a plan may be, some of the
Department of Public Safety provides the Vermont               most effective plans have been developed and
School Crisis Guide which offers more in depth                 implemented on a modest budget. A school should
discussion of all of the topics. This can be found at:         view such a plan as an important investment in
http://vem.vermont.gov/preparedness/school_crisis              recovery and continuity in the event of a crisis.
                                                               Utilization of a Multi-Line Safety Assistance Grant
                                                               can help offset or at times even pay for a majority
                                                               of the investment into the plan; contact us for more
      Planning, Response, & Recovery                           information.

                                                               3. A strong plan on paper is worthless without
                                                               training.
 1. Assessment is first; preparedness is second.
                                                               Some schools have comprehensive crisis response
To create a truly effective crisis management
                                                               plans sitting on shelves, gathering dust. Key
system, a school must understand its strengths and
                                                               personnel must understand the plan and their role in
limitations. A comprehensive risk assessment can
                                                               the event of a crisis. Schools should establish a
provide critical information that drives the creation
                                                               regular meeting schedule—ideally at least quarterly
of subsequent crisis response planning. An
                                                               and perhaps even monthly—for crisis response team
assessment should evaluate the school’s exposure to
                                                               members to discuss the plan, specific and applicable
a variety of likely risk scenarios, including natural
                                                               emergency procedures, and their individual roles
and human-made disasters. The results of such an
                                                               and responsibilities. Moreover, regular discussion
assessment are not “pass/fail”; rather, they help a
                                                               and training are also important to orient new


                             email: info@vsbit.org       phone: 802-223-6132    79 River Street Montpelier, VT 05602
   Crisis Planning Response & Recovery (RPM Dec 2012)


employees to the plan. Comprehensive annual                       6. The public will expect a school to demonstrate
training is also often beneficial for schools that have           support and compassion following a crisis.
large crisis response teams or particularly complex               An important but sometimes unanticipated aspect of
crisis response plans.                                            a mass-casualty crisis is the intense public interest
                                                                  in its impact on victims and their families. Schools
4. Testing is required.                                           must realize that crisis response doesn’t end with
How do you know the plan works? The only way,                     resolution of the immediate event. Institutional
short of an actual crisis, is to test it with a tabletop          reputation may be seriously damaged by an
exercise or a full-scale simulation. A tabletop                   ineffective or apparently unfeeling response to
exercise can test the entire crisis planning process or           victims and their families—on which the media is
focus on certain components of that process. Full-                certain to focus attention. The level of compassion
scale simulations test an entire crisis management                and support that a school demonstrates after a crisis
and response plan. They can be elaborate, and based               contributes (for better or worse) to its standing in
on specific threats to the school. To maximize                    the community.
effectiveness, full-scale simulations usually involve
local first responders, including law enforcement,                7. Develop a business continuity plan.
emergency medical and fire services, and media.                   Schools should develop a business continuity plan
Because simulations are expensive and difficult to                that anticipates a variety of threats and allows the
coordinate, tabletop exercises are usually a more                 institution to continue operating during and after a
realistic testing option. For resources on tabletop               crisis. This type of planning differs from disaster
exercises please contact the Multi-Line Program.                  recovery, which focuses on repairing damage and
                                                                  restoring systems. With the Multi-Line’s School
5. Mass casualty events mean mass media                           Violent Events Coverage, schools can anticipate up
coverage.                                                         to $50,000 in assistance for continuity, counseling
A school facing a crisis that involves significant                services, and public relations.
injuries and loss of life will quickly be subjected to
intense and sensationalized media attention. In                   8. Crisis response and business continuity plans
today’s world, there’s no place to hide from                      are always works-in-progress.
reporters and TV coverage. However, your school                   Crisis response and business continuity planning
can have a positive impact on some of the reporting               should be reviewed on a regular basis, preferably
by planning, preparing, and practicing in advance to              annually. The student population is not static,
handle the media.                                                 administration and staff turnover is likely, facilities
                                                                  are added or remodeled, and new technology is
Intense media attention on a crisis invariably
                                                                  implemented. Such changes often bring new threats.
stimulates interest and calls from individuals and
                                                                  A review schedule that includes annual assessment,
entities that are not directly affected by the crisis. In
                                                                  plan modification, refresher training, and testing
addition to curiosity seekers, this group may include
                                                                  will keep the crisis response and business continuity
people and organizations wanting to offer
counseling or other forms of assistance. Many are                 plans vital and relevant.
well-meaning, and some simply hope to profit from
tragedy, but few are likely to be qualified or needed.
As part of its plan for responding to a media                     Conclusion
onslaught following a mass-casualty event, a school
should consider how it would handle unsolicited
contacts of this kind.
                                                                  These points present a context for thinking about
                                                                  crisis response, business continuity, and for creating
                                                                  an effective overall crisis management system.



                              email: info@vsbit.org         phone: 802-223-6132    79 River Street Montpelier, VT 05602
   Crisis Planning Response & Recovery (RPM Dec 2012)


Although each school must consider its individual
circumstances and characteristics in approaching
this task, past crises offer practical lessons and areas
to consider.

We at the Multi-Line Program are here to assist you
in any way that we can. Whether it be through our
Safety Assistance Grant to help fund your
assessment and planning or providing resources to
help you train for these events; we are just a phone
call away.

Please also remember that INVEST EAP has
services that can assist members during these times
of need. For assistance from INVEST EAP, please
call 800-287-2173. This service is free of charge to
school employees and their household members.




                             email: info@vsbit.org         phone: 802-223-6132   79 River Street Montpelier, VT 05602

				
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