Emergency Readiness & Management

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No matter the age--from Pre-K/Elementary School to higher education-- communities and families expect schools and learning institutions to ensure their children and youth are safe in the face of an emergency, including violence, crime, natural disasters, epidemics, and accidents. It is critical for schools/institutions of higher education and communities to work together to develop plans that can be effectively implemented in the event of an emergency.

Safe and supportive learning environments provide a foundation of positive relationships and systems that can help staff and students better face the challenges of managing during an emergency, as well as the resilience to overcome the challenges emergencies present.  To effectively prepare for and manage an emergency, promoting and maintaining safe supportive learning environments is key. 

It is critical that schools build a safe and supportive learning environment that develops students' protective factors before a crisis occurs and maintain and build the learning environment after an emergency.

Schools must work to identify early warning signs of problem behaviors and develop prevention, intervention and crisis response plans. But schools' focus should not be exclusive to the reduction of behavior problems; school communities must also work to foster positive behavioral outcomes through well-designed, evidence-based programs, such as social and emotional learning programs and positive behavior supports.

Schools play a key role in preventing and protecting against emergencies.

In the event of an emergency or tragedy, school staff will be first responders. The Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 8 provides guidance to communities in preventing attacks against national security threats. The five mission areas of this preparedness framework is amenable to the planning activities of schools in the prevention of, protection against, mitigation of damage from, response to and recovery from threats and/or emergencies. Schools and communities should work together to develop capacity in these areas to ensure the safety and resilience of students, staff, and families. FEMA defines these areas as follows: 

  • Prevention - avoid, deter, or stop an imminent crime or threatened or actual mass casualty incident.
  • Protection - secure schools against acts of violence and manmade or natural disasters.
  • Mitigation - eliminate or reduce the loss of life and property damage by lessening the impact of an event or emergency.
  • Response - stabilize an emergency once it has already happened or is certain to happen in an unpreventable way.
  • Recovery - assist schools and communities affected by an event or emergency in restoring a safe and supportive learning environment.

To learn more about this policy directive, visit FEMA's website at: http://www.fema.gov/learn-about-presidential-policy-directive-8

A comprehensive approach to school safety that involves the whole school community is integral to protecting and supporting all staff and students.

In developing preventive and protective measures, the emergency planning process must be inclusive of and responsive to the unique environmental and cultural aspects of a school and the surrounding community to be most effective in keeping students and staff safe and helping them recover after an incident. The active engagement of community stakeholders (e.g., law enforcement, mental health professionals) and school staff at all levels builds the capacity of multiple entities to assist in the event of an emergency. Therefore, FEMA suggests the following principles guide schools' planning processes:

  • Planning must be supported by leadership
  • Planning uses assessment to customize plans to the building level
  • Planning considers all threats and hazards
  • Planning provides for the access and functional needs of the whole school community
  • Planning considers all settings and all times
  • Creating and revising a model emergency operations plan is done by following a collaborative process

For additional planning information and guidance, consult the REMS Center for developing high-quality emergency plans for schools at: http://rems.ed.gov/docs/REMS_K-12_Guide_508.pdf


U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Safe and Healthy Students. (2013). Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans. Washington, DC.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Safe and Healthy Students. (2013). Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Institutes of Higher Education.Washington, DC.

Dwyer, K., Osher, D., and Warger, C. (1998). Early warning, timely response: A guide to safe schools. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. 

Featured Resources

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Designs access to help schools create and update high-quality school emergency operations plans (EOPS). Navigates end users through a six-step planning process recommended in the Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans (School Guide) and obtains a unique and downloadable school EOP.

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Assists students, staff, and families in the immediate aftermath of a disaster or emergency event, and can be used by any trained staff member or school administrator. Provides educators on how to speak with students and peers who have experienced an emergency event or disaster by way of offering steps including: listening, protecting, connecting, modeling, and teaching.

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Expands the reach of the EOP ASSIST software application to K-12 education agencies. Intertwines interactive forms permitting end users to explore a six-step planning process to develop a high-quality school emergency operations plan (EOP), along with related resources to support that process.

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Dives deep into nine years of school tragedies, and it advocates for schools to establish comprehensive targeted violence prevention programs. Provides prevention measures to identify students of concern and assess their potential risk for engaging in violence or other harmful activities.

Provides an overview of information for districts working with school planning teams creating operation plans that are specific to emergencies. At the same time, highlights a report to assist schools and school districts in developing customized school EOPs with first reponders.

U.S. Department of Education
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Helps school professionals better understand the issue of human trafficking and who is at risk for victimization. Included are a list of “red flags” that administrators and staff reference when identifying potential victims and hotlines to call to make a report.  

Blue Campaign
Book cover image - Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans

Helps with the development of high-quality emergency operations plans for schools. It incorporates lessons learned from recent incidents, and respond to the needs and concerns voiced by stakeholders following the recent shootings in Newtown and Oak Creek and the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma. It can be used to create new plans as well as to revise and update existing plans and align their emergency planning practices with those at the national, state, and local levels.

REMS Center
Thumbnail cover image - Specialized Training Packages - Special Topics in Emergency Management

Features self-paced emergency management training materials to support high-quality emergency management across a range of special topics. School emergency managers may use these materials to train their colleagues or to brush up on their own knowledge regarding special topics in school emergency management. The topics included in these training packages range from continuity of operations and large event planning to handling food contamination and infectious diseases. Each package includes training instructions, a PowerPoint presentation, and supplemental resources.

REMS TA Center
report cover image - A Training Guide for Administrators and Educators on Addressing Adult Sexual Misconduct in the School Setting

Helps schools and school districts understand adult sexual misconduct (ASM), develop related policies and procedures, train on ASM awareness and prevention, and recognize the role of social media and technology in ASM. This training guide, which is available free of charge and based on the most recent research and trends on ASM, supports education agencies in updating their emergency operations plans (EOPs) and/or related ASM policies and procedures to be in alignment with national, state, and local recommendations. 

REMs Center

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