Emergency planning for SChools
New Hampshire Requirements
Every public and nonpublic school in New Hampshire is required to develop a site-specific school emergency response plan which is based on and conforms to the Incident Command System and the National Incident Management System. Each school shall provide the plan to, and coordinate the plan with, local emergency authorities and with the emergency operations plan in the municipality in which the school is located. Plans must be submitted to the NH Department of Education and the NH Department of Safety by September 1 of each year. Further info on these requirements can be found in NH RSA Section 189:64.
The New Hampshire Department of Safety, Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) has customized a number of tools and resources to assist schools across the State with their efforts to develop a comprehensive emergency plan. NH Homeland Security & Emergency Management has created a number of resources, including an Emergency Operations Plan Template. This template is designed to get schools started with planning. These documents are provided as a resource and are not prescriptive. Additional resources can be found below that more closely align with the City's public safety plans and protocols.
The City of Nashua has developed standardized appendices for your emergency plan for each of the standardized 7 Response Actions. The 7 Response Actions provide simple actions that staff and students within your schools can take to place themselves into a safe situation during the initial moments of an emergency. Using one or more of these actions during the initial moments of an emergency will handle 99% of the hazards your school will ever encounter.
An example of how the 7 Response Actions can be used:
- A large amount of police activity up the street from your school prompts concern from staff and students
- Your facility activates the "Secure Campus" response action, swiftly locking exterior doors, closing exterior window shades, maintaining additional vigilance of activities taking place outside your building, and tuning in to local media and emergency officials for updates.
- This move reduces the concern of building occupants by limiting the possibility of a threat from entering the building, enables all interior activities to continue as normal while providing your Emergency Response Team with time to organize and establish an Incident Command Post if necessary.
- From here the School Emergency Response Team would leverage their Emergency Action Plan and provide additional direction to building occupants as needed.
These annexes are meant to be added to your Emergency Operations Plan as appendices. A large portion of your staff training program should incorporate the 7 Response Actions and practicing these actions through regular drills. Click the any of the response actions below to view the response appendix. You can also access a folder containing all 7 Response Annexes here.
**The City of Nashua has adopted the Avoid, Deny, Defend model to respond to an active threat/active shooter. You can find out more information about A.D.D. here. This response action expands the Lockdown concept to include avoiding the threat and defending yourself if necessary. You may be familiar with other names for this method, such as "Run, Hide, Fight" or "A.L.I.C.E".
In addition to the 7 Response Action Annexes, the City has developed template annexes for three main functions which may be necessary during an emergency. Template Annexes have been developed for Communications, Transportation, and Reunification. All of these templates are likely to be applicable to your school. In addition, there may be additional annexes that you will want to add to your emergency action plan other responsibilities within your Emergency Response Team (security, food services, logistics, etc). Your school can customize and edit the annexes to fit your specific needs.
Communications, Transportation, and Reunification Annexes templates are available for you to use.
One critical aspect of crisis response is accountable reunification of students with their parents or guardians in the event of a school crisis or emergency. The City of Nashua has adopted the "I Love U Guys" Foundation's Standard Reunification Method (SRM) for schools and childcare centers across the City. SRM provides school and district safety teams with proven methods for planning, practicing and achieving a successful reunification. A predetermined, practiced reunification method ensures the reunification process will not further complicate what is probably already a chaotic, anxiety-filled scene. In fact, putting an orderly reunification plan into action will help defuse the emotion building at the site. The Standard Reunification Method includes instructions and templates for each school to develop a Reunification Operations Kit to make the process of connecting students with their guardians after a crisis as organized as possible.
The New Hampshire HSEM has also developed Effective Solutions for Increased Security in NH Public Schools to help guide schools to implementing effective mitigation strategies that increase physical security. Review the solutions guide to better understand your facility's vulnerabilities and how to mitigate the effects of an incident. Many of these enhancements can be proposed after a walk-through of your facility. Remember: No number of locks or cameras will replace a trained staff and comprehensive emergency plan!
Floor Plans: Up-to-date floor plans are crucial information that should be available to police, fire, and school officials in case of an emergency. The availability of these floor plans will help enhance the capabilities of officials to assess and respond to threats in the school building. Updated copies of the floor plans to be quickly available to public safety. Contact us to ensure digital copies are available at Police and Fire Dispatch.
Door and Window Labeling: As an additional safety feature, exterior doors and windows at school facilities should be clearly numbered on both the inside and outside for easy identification.The State of NH provides guidance on best practices for door and window labeling.
Bomb Threats: Many questions come up about the appropriate response to a bomb threat. Beyond implementing the Scan Response Action, the State of NH has developed a resource to provide suggestions on how to best work with law enforcement to respond to this type of threat. The US Department of Homeland Security has also developed a phone checklist and guidance on bomb threat best practices.
Informing Parents and Guardians: It is essential to educate parents and guardians on their role during an emergency at the school. Some essential include information on how they will receive information about the emergency situation, how the school plans on responding, where students will be taken during an evacuation, and how parents/guardians can assist. The Nashua School District has developed a brochure in English and Spanish to distribute to parents/guardians at the beginning of each school year. While this won't handle all instances of parents/guardians calling or arriving at the school during an emergency, it will help to reduce the impact.
Establish Agreements: Waiting to determine where you're sending your students during in the middle of an evacuation is not the best approach to an effective emergency plan. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) should be established between your school and other facilities to serve as off site evacuation & reunification sites. Our recommendation is to identify at least one location within walking distance of your school, and to utilize Nashua High School South and North as options for longer term evacuation sites. Both High Schools can separate the Athletic Wing from the remainder of the school and have the necessary logistical requirements to set up a reunification site. The Office of Emergency Management can facilitate an Memorandum of Understanding between your school and the Nashua School District for emergency relocation. Contact us to find out more information. Feel free to use our template MOU as a starting point in your efforts to set up agreements with evacuation sites across the City.
Consult with local emergency responders and officials to ensure your school's plans are realistic and feasible. Contact us or assistance as you update your plan.
After you have developed a comprehensive emergency plan, it is essential to train your staff on their role. See the School Training Resources page for free online training opportunities.
The US Department of Education Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) is a good resource for training, templates, and guides. Two resources worth checking out include the Toolbox of Templates and the Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans.
If you are looking for resources in the development of your school emergency plan, the FEMA Multi-Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools Toolkit can help. The website contains example procedures and guides for all phases of an emergency.
Our neighbors in Massachusetts have made a lot of progress in implementing the School Threat Assessment and Response System (STARS Toolkit). This toolkit contains a framework for developing School Crisis Response Teams and contains editable procedures that can fit within your emergency plan as needed.