The School Business Leader’s incident survival guide

Posted  28th May 2021
Posted by  SBL Day Partner
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Over the past 6 months we have been talking to schools across the country about how they manage their critical incident response.

One of the most consistent patterns across every type of school incident is the central role of the school office.

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Whilst it is impossible to predict the events of a school-day, we have noticed some useful common themes across schools that have tried to anticipate the unexpected.

Be clear on responsibilities:

  • Establish a senior emergency response team who will be the first line of contact during the most serious emergencies.
  • Consider creating different response teams for different types of incident in-school. The skills required to handle a major IT outage or data breach would be different to those needed for a significant behavioural issue.

Some of the most common response teams will cover:

    • The most serious emergencies (SEMT)
    • Medical incidents
    • Safeguarding incidents
    • Site safety incidents
    • Pastoral/behavioural incidents
    • IT incidents and data breaches
  • Create a culture of ownership across the school. The member of staff who raised the alert for any given situation owns the incident and the initial response, until an SEMT or response team leader says otherwise.
  • Use the breadth of the staff base to create specialisms for different areas of in-house training. Why not appoint classroom-based support staff to build-up their expertise and lead in-house training sessions on more niche medical conditions?

Be strategic

  • Create an emergency incident plan. Use your time thoughtfully according to the most common or serious incidents that affect your school. Avoid adopting model documents in whole-form and make sure your plan brings to life the unique context of your school.
  • Consider the prevalence of different medical conditions and the specifics of your children with special or additional needs. HSE confirm that for the most part, children with ASN and SEN won’t require their own risk assessment, but you could add any associated risks and preparation to your emergency plan.

Be prepared for incidents that are both serious and likely

    • Set out the likelihood and potential impact of different incidents in your emergency incident plan. Here you can create more detailed response protocols for high-scoring risks.
    • Create short, easy-to-follow task lists for incidents that:
      • Involve common medical emergencies, such as seizures or anaphylaxis.
      • Require a whole-school response, such as invacuations and lockdowns.
      • Are complicated or are subject to change, such as reporting a COVID case.
    • Decide on the appropriate cadence of training and drill exercises according to the score against each incident type.
    • Hold retrospective meetings to review each major incident response. Consider how you can create open, honest, non-judgmental reflection and feed learnings back into policies and task lists.
    • Once changes to policies have been ratified and rolled-out, follow up on an incident that wasn’t handled correctly with a drill exercise soon after the event.

Be practical

  • Make sure you have two auto-injector pens (EPI pens) in stock at all times and that the relevant responders know how to use them in the event of an anaphylactic emergency. Add stock replacement as part of your task list for this type of incident.
  • Consider putting together incident grab bags. A grab bag would typically include a torch, a whistle, a logbook and pen, a blanket, a wireless phone charger and a hard copy of your emergency plan. Make sure staff know where they are located.

  • We hope that some of these tips will support you in taking a more front-footed approach to managing difficult situations in your school.

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