Emergency Response Training in our Schools: Failing to Train Means Planning to Fail

As the White House in June formally underscored the need for schools to align their emergency planning practices with those in place at the national, state and local levels, it delivered a sobering statistic: A recent survey has indicated that that only 52% of schools nationwide with a written response plan in the event of a shooting had drilled their students on the plan during the previous year.

For nearly half of our nation’s schools, this survey said there had been no drill about what to do if faced with an active shooter. With no drill, there is no communication about what works and what can be improved. That translates into no conversation about “what if”, a vital component of risk management and crisis prevention.

classroomWho is prepared to explain to grieving parents that their children had not drilled emergency measures or, worse, that the “written response plan” was actually a piece of paper taped to the teacher’s desk?

I fear that, in the rush to purchase the latest protective hardware, perhaps school administrators are inadvertently slighting the development and practice of the ever-important emergency response plan? And are we canting our emergency response plan perilously toward only the school shooter – at the expense of developing an all-inclusive emergency plan for the myriad other natural disasters, accidents and crises to which our school children may fall victim?

It is true that since the earliest U.S. school shooting on July 26, 1764, when four men entered a Pennsylvania schoolhouse and killed the schoolmaster and nine students, few crimes have inspired more impassioned outrage and grief.

But as Sir Winston Churchill so simply stated, “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” Churchill understood that preparation and planning – which includes practicing our response plans – for all hazards are the keys to not only mitigating worry, but also to ensuring safety and success.

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