Emergency preparedness means having a system in place to prevent, prepare, respond and recover from emergencies that are caused by natural disasters and man-made events such as violent incidents or larger scale acts of terror. The U.S. Department of Education has released a guide, Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities, to assist schools in preparing for emergencies. The guide may be downloaded at no cost at http://www.ed.gov/emergencyplan/.

What Schools Should Do

Develop an Emergency Plan. Review and update your plan annually. Be sure to address all types of emergencies.

Sample emergency plans include:

Florida Department of Education. Crisis Management. http://www.unf.edu/dept/fie/sdfs/notes/crisis_mngmnt.pdf

Los Angeles Unified School District. Standard Emergency Procedures for Schools, revised December 2001.
http://adultinstruction.org/administrators/ handbooks/emergency.pdf

For School-Wide Emergencies Resources visit: Emergency Planning and Procedures Guide for Schools

Virginia Model School Crisis Management Plan. http://www.pen.k12.va.us/VDOE/Instruction/crisis-guide.pdf

Develop a Crisis Response Team. The response team should include key school personnel such as the principal, teachers, school nurse, counselor, and custodian staff. Each person should have clear defined roles in an emergency. School districts and some state governments have developed policies or procedures to be used in establishing a crisis response team at the school building level. Information is typically located on a school district’s web site. View more information on how to put together a crisis response team

Develop a Communication Plan. Develop and disseminate a communication plan for emergencies. Describe how students, staff, and parents will be notified in an emergency. View a sample communication plan.

Provide Regular Practice and Training. Provide comprehensive training on emergency plan procedures with staff. Practice procedures and practice some more with staff and with staff and students. View key components of training and practice guidelines.

Help for Students with Special Needs

Emergency plans need to include provisions for students with disabilities, such as learning and developmental disabilities, visual and hearing impairments, and physical limitations. Attention is also needed for students with limited English proficiency to make sure they understand the emergency procedures.

Things to consider in the planning process:

  • Identify alternative evaluation routes and shelter for students with mobility problems
  • Develop a communication system for the visual and hearing impaired
  • Assign a buddy for each student with a disability
  • Communicate with all students using a common vocabulary
  • Train staff in procedures to assist students with disabilities

For more information on emergency preparedness and students with special needs, visit


Every school should have an emergency crisis response plan that identifies…

  • Who will carry out specific responsibilities;
  • What actions or activities need to occur following an emergency crisis incident;
  • When the plan will be activated;
  • Where faculty and staff should report;
  • Why these actions are necessary to ensure the safety of students, staff and faculty; and
  • How the response will be managed during an emergency crisis incident.

Source: Managing a School Crisis, Using the Standardized Emergency Management System, SEMS. Los Angeles County, Office of Education.

Additional Resources
Resources for School Emergency Response Plans and School Safety.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. Emergency Planning. http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety/emergencyplan/index.html

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Emergency Preparedness and Response.