Crisis Management Plan: Tips to Develop & Improve
It’s the end of the school day. All of your students and staff are gathered in the prayer hall to perform Dhur prayer. As you sit peacefully, ready to conclude your prayer with “salam,” you hear gunshots that come from nearby. What would you do, as a school leader, teacher, or parent?
This happened recently to one Islamic school outside of Chicago, IL. In the wake of the recent shootings in Florida, it was a frightening experience. It is a reminder that all of our schools should have a crisis management plan (CMP) that goes beyond the usual lockdown drill procedures.
Indeed, in any crisis situation, time is of the essence. A CMP allows schools to ensure that they can be more effective in the event of a crisis.
The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) provides the following eight steps on developing a comprehensive and effective CMP:
- Develop a CMP that is user-friendly and accessible to key stakeholders. Provide it to all employees upon contract signing, include it in your Staff and Parent handbooks, and include a link to it on your website.
- Establish a Crisis Team consisting of key school personnel. Consider having any of the following: Principal, Vice Principal, Business Manager, Board Chair. Identify where this team could meet on/off campus, if the situation permits, during a crisis.
- Create and maintain a phone list that could be accessible remotely. It should include the school directory, internal and external emergency contacts (security, health, facilities).
- Establish notification systems including texting, email, website, phone. Consider: who will be notified, in what order, and who will perform the notifications. A consistent message should be conveyed on all of these mediums.
- Plan to manage parents as many will descend on a school for information in the event of a crisis. Develop and communicate a policy that informs parents of the school’s protocol during a crisis, what to do if media calls them, and how to obtain more information from the school.
- Establish a Media Policy that defines procedures to the staff on how to deal with the media. Identify a spokesperson/people, develop a “holding statement” (see #7), and include guidelines on what school employees may or may not discuss with the media. Include social media guidelines in this policy.
- Develop a Holding Statement which is a message designed for use immediately after a crisis breaks and before you have all of the facts. It is a polite way of saying “no comment,” until you have all of the information. Example: We have just learned of this situation and we’re still getting the facts. I really can’t give you a statement or conduct an interview until I have more information.
- Train, Practice, and Hone your Plan.
- Practical Information for your Crisis Management Brochure (US Department of Ed)
- Crisis Communication Guidelines for Independent Schools (NAIS sign-in required)