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Public Health Emergency Preparedness

This resource was part of AHRQ's Public Health Emergency Preparedness program, which was discontinued on June 30, 2011, in a realignment of Federal efforts.

This information is for reference purposes only. It was current when produced and may now be outdated. Archive material is no longer maintained, and some links may not work. Persons with disabilities having difficulty accessing this information should contact us at: https://info.ahrq.gov. Let us know the nature of the problem, the Web address of what you want, and your contact information.

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Recommendations and Feedback

Upon completion of the project, we presented an evaluation of our findings. Summary reports and recommendations were provided to each of the school principals. In making the recommendations, we were mindful of keeping costs minimal and implementation practical.

Specific guidelines are described below.

Evacuation/Relocation Recommendations

The principal will:

  • Make an announcement over the PA system while crisis team members deliver instructions to key staff.

The crisis team will:

  • Initiate the response.
  • Inspect the building and direct all students to exits and assembly areas.
  • Carry walkie-talkies and cell phones.
  • Communicate with town emergency response teams.
  • Communicate regularly with staff regarding the status of the emergency.

The secretarial staff will:

  • bring the attendance roster for students and staff to the alternate site.
  • take the crisis kit.

Teachers and other support staff will:

  • Assist children with mobility difficulties.
  • Take their classroom crisis kit.
  • Lead students through evacuation using designated routes.
  • Check lavatories and other areas of the building where students may be unsupervised in order to assure evacuation is complete.
  • Take attendance and report any missing students to a crisis team member.
  • Lead their students to the off-site location in the event of relocation following the designated route.
  • Stay with their students until further instructions are given.

The school nurse will:

  • Bring the emergency medical kit and the first aid kit.
  • Bring student emergency cards and medical information, and
  • Monitor students with special medical needs and notify the administration of any urgent medical needs.

Custodians will:

  • Maintain communication with the administration who may assign specific tasks.
  • Inspect the building following an evacuation.
  • Assume responsibility for building safety and carry a school floor plan, which includes the location of  utility shut-off valves. 

Shelter-in-Place Recommendations

The principal will:

  • Make an announcement over the PA system and mobilize the crisis team.
  • Designate staff who would take responsibility for "sweeping" the hallways and bathrooms to ensure that all children were in the proper places and were accounted for.

The crisis team will:

  • Inspect the building and playground and direct all staff and students to shelter area.
  • Communicate with town emergency responders.
  • Maintain communication with the central office (or other incident command center) using walkie-talkies or cell phones.

The secretarial staff will:

  • Bring the attendance roster for students and staff and the substitute list.

Teachers and other support staff will:

  • Move all students indoors to the common area.
  • Assist children with mobility difficulties.
  • take attendance and inform the crisis team of any children that are missing.
  • Close all windows and doors, and pull down shades prior to exiting the classroom.
  • Place a wet paper towel over the nose and mouth for temporary respiratory protection, inform the incident command center and, potentially, relocate to another part of the building if there appears to be contamination within the shelter.
  • Remain with their students until an "all clear" is given.

The school nurse will:

  • Follow instructions for school staff if students are in the health room.
  • Bring the emergency medical kit and the first aid kit.
  • Bring student emergency cards and medical information.
  • Monitor students with special medical needs, and notify the administration of any urgent medical needs.

Custodians will:

  • Shut down the classroom/building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
  • Turn off local fans in the area.
  • Close doors and windows.

Lockdown

The principal will:

  • Initiate lockdown if a threatening, suspicious, or violent intruder is found in the building; trying to enter the building; or if their imminent presence is suspected.
  • Dial 911 and notify town emergency responders.
  • Make an announcement over the PA system.
  • Mobilize the crisis team.

The crisis team will:

  • Attempt to identify the area of intrusion.
  • Maintain communication using walkie-talkies or cell phones.

The secretarial staff will:

  • Dial 911 and contact the principal if they witness a violent situation.
  • Bring the attendance roster for students and staff and the substitute list.
  • Bring the crisis kit to a safe location in the building.

Teachers and other support staff will:

  • Contact the central office immediately if they witness a violent or potentially violent situation.
  • Have all students in the hallway enter their classroom.
  • Check lavatories and have those students using the facilities enter the closest classroom.
  • Turn off lights, lock classroom doors and windows, and, if it is safe to do so, pull the shades.
  • Keep students away from windows and doors.
  • Take attendance and report missing and extra students to the office.
  • Have all students stop and drop to the floor if a gunshot or explosion is heard.
  • Maintain a calm environment and reassure students that everything is being done to return the situation to normal.
  • Remain in the classroom until further instructions are given by the principal.

The school nurse will:

  • Dial 911 and contact the principal if they witness a violent situation.
  • Follow instructions for lockdown if students are in the health room.
  • Communicate with other members of the crisis team.

Custodians will:

  • Lock all entrances to the building.
  • Maintain communication with administration.
  • Carry school floor plan showing shut-off valves for all utilities.

The Role of the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO)

Parent-teacher organizations have a poorly defined role in the construction of a school-based plan. On the one hand, the PTO can have a very valuable role in disseminating information and providing input on all aspects of the plan's creation and implementation. However, many families prefer not to have details of disaster preparedness plans, finding them anxiety-provoking. A useful approach would be for the principal to present an overview of plans at a PTO meeting, giving the group the option of being involved in all aspects of planning (e.g., discussions about stockpiling of potassium iodide or details of lockdown or sheltering-in plans).  For those PTOs that request full participation, reports and feedback can be incorporated into the plan.

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