Qualities of Effective Plans
Local law enforcement community and disaster agencies should be partners with the school in crafting the plan. The capacity of such agencies to respond to an emergency will vary from community to community, and the actual physical environment of the school and its surrounding environs will vary greatly. This situation dictates that a standard plan cannot be issued to each school; rather, each school must be involved in the development of a unique plan for the school. The plan must be reviewed frequently with an eye toward improvement, since many of the factors influencing the plan will change with time.
The plan should encourage regular face-to-face communication between school staff and outside agencies. This communication can be accomplished through regularly scheduled meetings, involving the relevant outside agencies in the trainings related to the plan and participating in practice drills of plan features with these outside agencies. The schedule for these meetings, trainings and drills should be established in the plan as well as an accountability structure to make sure that these activities occur.
Routine school fire drills must be enhanced with drills that walk school staff and, when necessary, students through various scenarios such as intruder alerts, school lockdowns and appropriate responses to natural disasters and bio-chemical emergencies. Each school's plan must achieve balance between the need for such practice and the instructional time lost through such activities. While a physical drill is needed for each procedure requiring the movement of large numbers of students, once the physical drill has occurred, periodic verbal walkthroughs by teachers can be a time effective way to keep students refreshed in the features of the drill. Drills should also ensure that necessary communication channels with outside agencies such as police, fire and hospitals are fully functional.