Though inspiring places for young people to grow and develop, today’s schools face unprecedented threats to student and staff safety as well as organizational continuity.

How so? The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose numerous challenges, both in staffing and the physical and mental well-being of students. The number of guns found in schools, as well as actual shootings, is steadily on the rise. And more frequent and severe natural disasters are occurring from coast to coast.

As bleak as the current situation may sound, it is not insurmountable. School administrators are well aware of their responsibility to prepare for events that pose danger to students and staff or with the potential to disrupt normal operations. And that involves developing, maintaining, and just as important, exercising, a comprehensive Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).

The purpose of a school EOP is to identify and respond to incidents by outlining the roles and responsibilities of staff, faculty, students, and other stakeholders before, during and after one occurs. The plan also provides parents and other members of the community assurances that there are established guidelines and procedures for responding to situations in a timely, proper, and effective way. Last, but certainly not least, the presence of an EOP increases a school’s legal protection. (Schools without established incident management procedures have been found liable for their absence.)

Admittedly, the process of creating, maintaining, and exercising a school EOP can be difficult and time-consuming. And even more so when resources are limited. In these instances, it’s best to look at external resources for guidance and recommendations. Consider, for example, FEMA’s “Sample School Emergency Operations Plan” (as a template) or the planning expertise of BOLDplanning, an Agility company (for hands-on plan development and testing).

Knowing that today’s school systems face a unique set of circumstances, it is more important than ever to have a current and actionable EOP. At BOLDplanning, we encourage you to review, and if necessary, update your school system’s EOP (if you have not done so already). We also invite you to download a case study showcasing Williamson County Schools and the Franklin Special School District (TN).