Page 34 - Independent Schools Magazine
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Advertorial Feature
It is a very British trait to downplay the possibility and seriousness of a crisis. The “Keep calm and carry on” attitude remains prevalent
in even our most august institutions and the senior management teams of many educational establishments often plan to deal with emergencies by relying on sound common sense, proven leadership skills and years of experience.
Emergency planning and business continuity are
not treated with the same professional respect as other low-probability, high- impact risks such as those associated with health and safety, safeguarding and  re safety. That’s unfortunate, catastrophically so should a crisis emerge.
All good schools prioritise the safety and wellbeing of students, yet often a school pays little attention to its arrangements for a crisis, typically having an emergency plan in place that was completed in isolation, by one or two members of staff, and rarely accompanied by training and exercises. Often, the majority of staff do not even realise that there is a plan in place, wouldn’t know where to  nd it, and certainly don’t understand their role in it. This is
a shame, because well-conceived and embedded protocols drive up professional standards and increase workforce con dence. Crucially parents rightly expect that their child’s school can respond effectively to an emergency, working with responding agencies to keep their children safe.
What should a school do to prepare? In getting to where it wants and needs to be, it must  rst understand its current state of readiness. A comprehensive health check, an audit of the school’s planning arrangements, training and exercising, risk pro le and capabilities, is the  rst step in the journey.
The second crucial activity is
to exercise. A tabletop exercise, simulating an emergency situation unfolding, such as an incident on site like a power
loss or  re, or a serious off site incident, such as an accident on
a trip, should be worked through, from initial noti cation moving to recovery. The school should explore issues such as, managing social media and worried parents, explore training and equipment needs and crucially, think through and really understand how the wider multi-agency response
will affect the school and what will be required to ensure the school’s response dovetails with responding agencies.
The school should consider separating out important, but entirely unhelpful (during an emergency response), information common to most emergency plans – such as strategic objectives, the background to
the school and endless roles and responsibilities, and creating
a separate, public strategic
resilience plan that can be shared with parents and governors.
This will help declutter emergency response plans, which should
be written clearly, in the form
of diagrams, aide memoirs and meeting agendas, to offer quick and easy guidance to staff under great pressure when responding. Plans should focus on the 4 key categories of a school emergency – offsite, onsite, business continuity and lock down, to avoid a confused response.
Creating realistic, pragmatic and effective plans is half the battle,
but is pointless if staff are not aware of arrangements, trained
and have had an opportunity to practice. Schools should consider re-running the tabletop exercise, in light of the new arrangements, as well as ensuring training for senior management teams, teachers and support staff (possibly as an item on
INSET training) and even governors is regularly delivered. Other exercises – such as noti cation tests and bolting on short but often powerful business continuity exercises to planned  re drills are all effective
in practicing arrangements and focusing the mind.
Many things are important, and a school will always have to make
a decision on the best use of its limited resources. However, avoiding resilience planning is a false economy. Although emergencies
in schools are uncommon, they certainly do happen, and are usually high pro le and serious. Putting the effort in beforehand, either in house or with the support of professionals, will pay dividends before, during and after an emergency, and a school doing so is a perfectly realistic expectation of parents when they choose the school for their children.
Nick Moon is the Managing Director of Applied Resilience, a Public Service Mutual dedicated to working with schools, local government and SME’s, helping them prepare for and respond to emergencies.
Applied Resilience is currently offering a limited number of schools a free table top exercise to help them better understand their current readiness.
To read case studies and see how we might help your school visit
34 Buildings & Facilities

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