SAFER SCHOOLS NEWS-VOL. 2
WHO GOES WHERE?
TRAFFIC CONTROL IN A CRISIS
Volume 2 – Page 2
The checklist will aid the caller in remaining calm and giving full information to the emergency responders. One school has established procedures with 911 to use their street address rather than their name. This has greatly reduced scanner listeners responding to crisis calls. An essential piece of information is the name and location of the responsible person at the school for the first responders to contact. That person, usually the principal, should have a checklist that reminds him/her what to do and where to go. He/she must resist becoming so enmeshed in the crisis that he/she is not in position to manage the flow of events.
Normally, the Administrative Office will be the center of activity. Here there is access to telephones, faxes, and intercoms. It is where any visitor would naturally go for information or to offer assistance. However, the school must sometimes be evacuated. The circumstances that dictate evacuation should be thought out well in advance and written in a crisis plan. A challenge in evacuations is how to maintain control of communications traffic.
The use of cellular telephones and two-way radios is an excellent method of remote site communication. The office phones can be set to forward incoming calls to selected cell-phones. Answering machines may also be used to inform callers of the cell-phone numbers to call. A word of caution on electronics: Cell-phones emit a very low level of RF energy. Fifty feet or any wall is sufficient separation to prevent activation of an explosive device. Two-way radios emit too much RF energy to use safely around a suspected explosive device; however, they do not emit except when sending. This allows them to be used as listening devices so that the principal can pass along information.
One school has established an alternate control center in a nearby convenience store. Through cooperation of the owners and the Telephone Company, a trunk line was run into the store with all of the school office numbers. This line was terminated in a covered telephone jack box. If the school must evacuate, they take one of the office phones with them and plug it in at the store. This allows emergency agencies, parents and media to continue to call using published numbers.
A valuable communications resource is local broadcast media. Radio and television stations can help get the word out. They will probably say something about the crisis anyway. The best option is to enlist their service and provide them with information that will aid in the resolution of the crisis.
Once the issue of how to communicate has been addressed, the next issue is what to communicate. Internally, keep communications to a minimum. Rely on the crisis planning to direct staff actions. Externally, avoid saying, “No comment.” Never tell anything but the truth. Unless it would hinder resolution efforts, tell everything that is known. Known means confirmed. Rumors will start and escalate almost immediately. Freely flowing factual, authoritative information will defuse the rumor mill. Have a plan in place that lets everyone know who is the only authorized spokesperson for the school. That person should be familiar with how to pass information to prying reporters and anxious parents. Continue…