Are our K-12 schools prepared to face emergency situations?
As we’ve all been made acutely aware in recent years, schools face the potential for emergencies that many are not equipped or prepared to handle on their own. Along with investigating how entities like the Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security can better support emergency preparedness in K-12 schools, a May 2016 study from the U.S. Government Accountability Office looked at what school districts have done to plan for emergencies and what challenges they have faced.
The study found that…
- An estimated 59% of school districts had difficulty balancing emergency planning with higher priorities, such as classroom instruction time.
- Most districts had plans addressing multiple hazards and emergency procedures, such as evacuation.
- Only about half of districts included procedures on continuing operations or recovering after an incident.
- Most districts conducted emergency exercises, with about half doing so annually with police and fire officials.
- Most school districts involved a wide range of community members, particularly school personnel and first responders, when developing and updating their emergency operations plans.
- 92% of districts had recently updated their emergency management plans.
As you can see, there are a lot of good practices in place at schools around the nation. That said, we also see issues that allow a greater level of risk to creep in. Awareness of the need for emergency preparedness is clearly up, as displayed by the percentage of schools that actually have a plan and know how to use it. This is thanks to regular training and practice, items we saw neglected by a significant portion of educational institutions in the past. The conclusion that schools are finding it tough to balance emergency prep with day-to-day operations doesn’t come as a major surprise considering this same dilemma is faced by just about every organization considering crisis management planning. In these cases it pays to remember that a great deal more time, and possibly human life, will be lost if preparation is neglected until an incident occurs.
Overall, we’re impressed. There’s room for improvement, but as a whole K-12 schools are investing more into emergency planning than ever before, and it shows in that they’re actually, well, prepared for emergencies. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
The BCM Blogging Team