Emergency Operations Planning
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The Iowa Department of Education believes school districts must be adequately prepared for a variety of emergencies that threaten the young lives of Iowa students each day. The Department provides resources from Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools - Technical Assistance (REMS-TA) that assists public school districts and non-public schools with developing high-quality school emergency operations plans (EOPs). The process for developing EOPs involves working collaboratively with district and community partners to assure the developed plans are complete and reflect actual capabilities and available resources. It is critical to involve district staff, local emergency management staff, first responders, and public and mental health officials during the planning process to integrate the district plan with community, regional, and state plans. The school’s EOP should provide an overview of the school’s approach to operations before, during, and after an emergency.
Planning and Preparing During a Pandemic
Review, update, and implement emergency operations plans (EOPs).
- Reference key resources on emergency preparedness while reviewing, updating, and implementing the EOP.
- Multiple federal agencies have developed resources on school planning principles and a 6-step process for creating plans to build and continually foster safe and healthy school communities before, during, and after possible emergencies.
- The Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center’s website contains free resources, trainings, and technical assistance (TA) for schools and their community partners, including many tools and resources on emergency planning and response to infectious disease outbreaks. Schools may find these considerations are helpful for developing high-quality emergency operations plans.
- Develop a protocol for monitoring local COVID-19 data in your community to keep track of the level of community transmission, to make decisions about changes to mitigation strategies, and to help determine whether school closures may be necessary. This should include daily review of official public health data for the community surrounding the school. Contact the state, local, tribal, or territorial Public Health Department for references to local COVID-19 data.
- Develop and test information-sharing systems (e.g., school-to-parent email or texting protocols, periodic virtual meetings with parent/teachers, etc.) with school and community partners and key stakeholders. Use institutional information systems for day-to-day reporting on information that can help to detect and respond to an outbreak, such as number of cases and absenteeism or changes in the number of visits to the health center by students, teachers, and other staff.
- Adopt mitigation strategies to promote healthy behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19, maintain healthy school environments and operations, and plan what to do if a student, teacher, or staff member gets sick.
- Examine the accessibility of information and resources to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and maintain healthy environments and determine whether they are culturally relevant, in plain language, and available in appropriate languages and accessible formats.
- In consultation with local officials, establish transparent criteria for when the school will suspend in-person learning to stop or slow the spread of COVID-19, as well as transparent criteria for when to resume in-person learning.
- Assess students’ special needs (such as continuing education, meal programs, and other services) and develop strategies to address these needs if in-person learning is suspended or if a student needs to self-isolate as a result of a diagnosis of or exposure to COVID-19.
- Ensure the EOP takes into consideration students with disabilities, students with special healthcare needs, students experiencing homelessness, migrant students and those with English learners, etc.
Continuity of Operations (COOP) Annex
When an emergency happens, it may be difficult to plan for continuity of operations and learning. That is why it’s important for education agencies to create a Continuity of Operations (COOP) Annex as a part of their emergency operations plans (EOPs). A COOP Annex outlines how planning and response teams will ensure that essential functions continue during an emergency and its immediate aftermath. Essential functions include business services (payroll and purchasing), communication (internal and external), computer and systems support, facilities maintenance, safety and security, and continuity of teaching and learning. Maximizing the strength of an education agency’s plans for continuity is an important part of the work that emergency management teams do at the K-12 and higher ed levels to ensure that learning can continue both during and after an emergency.
EOP Infectious Disease Resources for Schools
- Infectious Disease Tabletop Podcast
- Infectious Disease Tabletop Exercise
- Infectious Disease Exercise Resources
Emergency Operations Planning Webinars
During the 2018–2019 school year, the Department of Education offered a monthly webinar to help districts and schools prepare high-quality emergency operations plans. Each webinar provided step-by-step assistance in developing high-quality EOPs. Webinars were recorded and are posted below.
Legislation requires high-quality emergency operations plans for all public and accredited nonpublic schools, both district-wide and individual school buildings. Plans must include (but are not limited to) responses to active shooter scenarios and natural disasters. An emergency operations drill based on these plans is also required annually in each individual building.
(Click the link above for registration information to install the toolkit at the local level.)
The Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance (TA) Center has created an Emergency Management Virtual Toolkit for K-12 schools to disseminate consistent information, guidance, trainings, and tools on school emergency management.
The toolkit, which is divided into three sections—develop high-quality emergency operations plans (EOPs), engage youth and the community and connect with other emergency management practitioners—provides users with an opportunity to populate their own education agency’s website or emergency management webpage with the latest Federal school emergency management training and technical assistance resources and information for schools in their state or district.
Emergency Operations Planning training presentation. This training presentation was presented by Jane Colacecchi and Dave Johnston.
Tabletop Exercise Library
|Exercise Title||Situation Manual||PowerPoint/Supporting Documents|
|Reunification||Reunification Exercise Situation Manual||Reunification TTX PowerPoint|
|Active Shooter||Iowa Elementary School Active Shooter Situation Manual
Iowa Middle School Active Shooter Situation Manual
Iowa High School Active Shooter Situation Manual
|Kitchen Fire||Exercise - Kitchen Fire|
|Internal Chemical Spill||Exercise - Internal Chemical Spill|
|External Chemical Spill||Exercise - External Chemical Spill|
|Fire Drill||Exercises - SitMan - Fire Drill|
The Iowa School EOP planning template and the FEMA Sample School EOP planning template are provided here to assist you with your efforts. The content of the Iowa template has been developed from the comments received during the workshops, directions provided in the Guide to Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans, the FEMA Sample School Emergency Operations Plan, and from nationally identified best practices.
The text in italics provides additional information or instructions on how to complete the associated section of the plan. The regular text is provided as sample language to assist your planning team in better understanding the type of information needed in each section. You are free to use the language provided, but I must strongly stress that simply inserting your district’s name in place of bold text will not result in a truly comprehensive plan, nor will it accurately reflect a plan specific to your district. This should be a collaborative process focused on the needs of the district and school sites.
Iowa School Safety
Every school in Iowa should have a school safety plan in case of a natural disaster, medical emergencies, bomb threats and other situations. Though not mandatory in Iowa, leaders in education, law enforcement, fire safety and homeland security agree that school safety plans are important.
The following agencies and associations worked together to create safety resources for schools: Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Iowa Department of Education, Iowa Department of Public Safety - Intelligence Fusion Center, State of Iowa Fire Marshal's Office, School Administrators of Iowa, Iowa State Education Association, Iowa Association of School Boards, Heartland Area Education Agency.
The guide below serves as a template for creating local school safety plans. Flip charts offer how-to advice for educators about an emergency or how to react to one. A self assessment and threat report form are also available for school use.
School leaders are encouraged make these plans their own. The goal is to get all stakeholders on the same page when it comes to school safety.
ABC's of School Safety – Resource from the American Association of School Administrators.
NASP School Safety and Crisis Resources – The National Association of School Psychologists has assembled quality resources to promote the ability of children and youth to cope with traumatic or unsettling events.
The NSSA is a grassroots effort to bring together school safety professionals who are responsible for the safety and security of the children and staff in all the schools across our great nation. It is a collaborative effort, and inclusive of the different stakeholder communities, to include State Education Agency (SEA) designated state level school safety centers and/or other agencies responsible for school safety at the state level, and our federal and national partners.
Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center (REMS TA) – Supports schools, school districts, and institutions of higher education, with their community partners, in the development of high-quality emergency operations plans and comprehensive emergency management planning efforts.
REMS TA Center Virtual Trainings – A diverse set of trainings, including webinars and self-paced online courses on school emergency management available at no cost to schools. Certificates are issued electronically by the U.S. Department of Education.
Emergency Management Institute – Offers self-paced courses designed for people who have emergency management responsibilities and the general public. All are offered free-of-charge to those who qualify for enrollment.
The following courses are recommended for those interested in school emergency response planning:
- IS-100.c: Introduction to the Incident Command System, ICS 100
- IS-360: Preparing for Mass Casualty Incidents: A Guide for Schools, Higher Education, and Houses of Worship
- IS-362.a: Multi-Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools
- IS-700.b: An Introduction to the National Incident Management System (NIMS)