The implementation of procedural practices and methods to address school safety must be prefaced by the engagement of all stakeholders including local government, community partners, local school officers, and families. While school safety planning may address localities and regions, procedures are unique to individual school building sites and must coincide with local emergency plans. After all procedural elements are evaluated, no two projects seem to mirror each other completely. Uniqueness is just a result of a well-vetted emergency framework. The resources cited below are useful in understanding the implementation of the four phases of school emergency planning; Prevention, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery.

Akin to educational facility planning, school emergency planning requires a cooperative effort that includes social, cultural, political and economic mechanisms at work, and establishes a relationship between those social, cultural, political and economic mechanisms and school emergency planning and its procedures.

A community approach is pivotal to determine the appropriate steps to be followed in creating and maintaining a school emergency plan. A consistent, repetitive examination and revise of safety procedures is immensely critical to building a sustainable and efficient safety framework.

It has been an accepted practice to divide the structure of school emergency planning into four phases:

  1. Prevention
    2. Preparedness
    3. Response
    4. Recovery

Each one of these four phases must be documented, published, practiced, trained, reviewed and revised. The school emergency plan must also be dynamic and adaptable to changing circumstances.

Also, considering the individuality of circumstances of schools, even within the same geography, school emergency plans should reflect that uniqueness.   For instance, urban, suburban and rural schools must include their particular threats and risks in their planning.

A relevant case scenario was presented during the Southwest Region Conference 2018 of the Association for Learning Environments. Richgrove School District in central California represents the kind of challenges that are real for 50% of school districts in America which are located in census-defined rural areas. It serves a population of 630 K-8 students. The city of Richgrove lacks a city police agency, parks, clubs, funding groups or even restaurants. The community is nestled in California's industrial, agricultural fields. For them, a pervasive safety risk is in the agrochemical treatment of nearby farms. This hazard could occur at any time and without warning. It is just one example of the variety of threats and risks that school emergency planning has to prepare.

The United States Department of Education has identified the following general guidelines to school emergency planning:

  • Be developed and strengthened based on local needs and characteristics of the school district.
  • Be developed and maintained by community partners.
  • Provide for all hazards and reflect the four phases of a school emergency plan.
  • Ensure the safety of the whole community, including students, staff, visitors, and people with disabilities and special needs.
  • Reflect the components and principles of the National Incident Management System, which are:
  • Comprehensiveness
  • Progressiveness
  • Risk Driven
  • Integrated
  • Collaborative
  • Coordinated
  • Flexible
  • Professional


The development of procedures may benefit from advice provided by both professional and non-governmental organizations and legal counsel.  The listing of references and resources that follow have been collected and summarized to aid the drafting of a well-considered policies/procedures or in updating these.  Historical reference and statistics on the topic of safety and security can be found amongst this listing.

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Post-Disaster Reunification of Children

The separation of children from parents and guardians during a natural disaster remains a critical issue facing emergency response teams, and schools play a crucial role in the reunification of families. The guide outlines steps being taken at a national level to address this issue and a checklist of planning considerations that school communities should address to get children and their parents back together in the event of an emergency.

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“Caring for Children in a Disaster” Centers for Disease Control

This resource center highlights some unique aspects of caring for children during a natural disaster and identifies specific threats, common misconceptions, and strategies for coping that school districts may consider while creating their emergency preparedness plan. The tools and resources provided include educational material, checklists and planners, and recommendations for alleviating stress and anxiety in children caught in a disaster. It also has a special section on anticipating care needs for students with special needs.

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“Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines” The University of Virginia

An evidence-based program, the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines gives districts a step-by-step method for evaluating the likelihood and severity of potential violence against their community. It also provides safe, structured ways of addressing the threat, once it has been assessed. It emphasizes early attention to bullying and student conflict before those behaviors escalate, paired with a flexible, problem-solving approach.

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Practical Information on Crisis Planning; a guide for schools and communities

This publication is intended to give school districts, and cities the critical concepts and components of a proper crisis planning, stimulate thinking about the crisis preparedness process and provide examples of promising practices. Crisis plans need to be customized to communities, districts, and schools to meet the unique needs of residents and students. Crisis plans also need to address state and local school safety plans.

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The Minnesota Comprehensive School Safety Guide, 2011 edition

The Minnesota Comprehensive School Safety Guide, 2011 edition.

Minnesota has in recent years suffered from natural disasters including fires, tornados, floods that have impacted daily school operations. Unfortunately, the state has also been affected by acts of violence at schools, including shootings, assaults, and suicides.

This guide is one of the best examples of school emergency planning in the nation. The emergency procedures contained therein are practical and yet meet national standards for school safety.

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