How to prepare school crisis plans
How to plan school crisis communication
In any crisis situation, communication is key – and that’s no different when that crisis happens within a school. In fact, in an emergency, schools can face a communication challenge on a much larger scale than other institutions, as they need to reach out to, at best, hundreds of parents and staff members and, at worst, thousands. So, whether it’s adverse weather, an unexpected leadership departure, or a sudden health emergency, having a plan in place to keep staff, students and parents in the know is essential.
Effective school crisis communication is all about preparation, so that there’s already a procedure in place staff can revert to, to deal with problems quickly and efficiently, keep the situation as calm as possible, and ensure everyone receives the same information. This requires forward planning. But how do you go about devising a school crisis communication plan?
Step 1: Identify potential crisis scenarios
Forming a school emergency communication plan begins with identifying and performing a risk assessment for potential crises. Natural disasters and adverse weather, violence, fire, leadership changes and medical emergencies are all situations you should consider, among others.
In the early stages of planning, it could also help to define categories or tiers of emergency, allowing you to establish critical first steps amongst your team.
Of course, you can never plan for every eventuality, but by taking the time to consider your response across core situations, you should be able to adapt your response accordingly if the time comes.
Step 2: Establish a communication team
Emergency situations are stressful for staff, but you can manage some of that stress by making sure roles and responsibilities are clear for everyone, irrespective of the nature of the crisis. It’s important to designate a team of staff and give them specific roles to undertake during the emergency.
For example, one person may be responsible for alerting the emergency services, if applicable, while another may take on the role of preparing messaging to send to parents. It’s also essential that the right people have access to the right technology in these situations, so ensuring thorough system training has been provided and that any passwords are in the right hands ahead of time is a vital step.
Step 3: Map out the communication steps
When a crisis situation occurs, it’s really important that the stages of communication are carefully considered, as well as the order in which they need to happen. It goes without saying that the initial announcement is the most important, so it can help to pre-draft some messages to pre-grouped, relevant stakeholders and get them approved by the relevant people ahead of time. This means, on the day, all staff members need to do is press send. One message may be enough for certain crises, while others may require further updates as the situation develops – so this should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Step 4: Consider parents
Ensuring parents are in-the-know and reassured is a vital stage of school crisis communication. After all, the safety of students is at the centre of any emergency situation. So, it’s important to act with care and sensitivity when communicating with parents, and to communicate at the right time. Too early and without all the facts, you may cause panic. Too late, and information could be leaked and cause parents to become distressed or angry. Both situations are likely to result in hundreds of parents calling the school to find out more information, making the situation unmanageable for the school and resulting in bad PR after the fact. But how can schools ensure they have the right communication tools to handle a crisis effectively?
Step 5: Involve technology
In today’s world, school emergency communication is most effective when technology is involved. This allows messages to be communicated quickly and consistently, without the opportunity for inaccurate information to be spread. While emails and texts are useful communication methods on a normal day, in widespread emergencies, such as bad weather, mobile networks can become congested and emails may largely get ignored. The fastest and most reliable way to communicate key information, particularly to parents, is through the use of a system they already know and are familiar with. For example, a school app. This ensures that vital information isn’t missed, and everyone receives the updates they need at the same time. The most advanced school app systems will automatically select the best route to send messages; in-app messaging providing the quickest and most reliable channel but also by text and email for parents who have older generation mobile phones. This ensures that vital information isn’t missed, and everyone receives the updates they need as quickly as possible.
How ReachMoreParents by Weduc can help with emergency communication
At ReachMoreParents by Weduc, we understand how important technology is in communicating in the right way, at the right time. That’s why we’ve created a range of software that makes communication simpler for schools, teachers and parents.
For emergency situations, our custom branded apps for schools can enable you to communicate key details, all in one place – from day-to-day updates to more critical announcements. Once introduced, parents will become familiar with the system and how it works, so it will become the easiest way to disseminate vital updates in the quickest way possible.
No one can see into the future, but having an effective school crisis communication plan will ensure that, no matter the situation, the mood can remain calm, and the safety of all involved can be prioritised.
To find out more about how to keep your school communications consistent and clear, explore our range of software for schools, click here to book a discovery call at a time that suits you, drop us a line via our enquiry form, or give us a call on 01509 221 349.