Safety guides and audits to make your job as a safety professional easier

Crisis Management


What is a Crisis?

Webster’s dictionary defines “crisis” as:

“a stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point. “

Crises certainly range in scope and intensity. Some events can directly or indirectly impact the entire community. They can happen both on and off campus, as well as before, during, and after school hours. A crisis can be any situation where schools could face inadequate information, not enough time, and insufficient resources. Leaders must make one or even several crucial decisions. Staff and students can also be indirectly affected by an incident in another city or state. For example, the Columbine high school shooting and September 11th left the entire nation feeling vulnerable.

Crisis Teams

Crisis Teams

All districts and schools need a crisis team. One of the key functions of this team is to identify the types of crises that may occur in the district and schools and define what events would activate the plan. The team may consider many factors such as the school’s ability to handle a situation with internal resources and its experience in responding to past events.

Plans need to look at several types of events and hazards, caused by both people and nature, such as:

Responsibilities of Crisis Management Team Members
  • natural disasters (i.e., earthquake, tornado, hurricane, flood)
  • severe weather
  • fires
  • chemical or hazardous material spills
  • bus crashes
  • school shootings
  • bomb threats
  • medical emergencies
  • student or staff death
  • acts of terror or war
  • outbreak of disease or infections

Sequence of Crisis Management

Crisis Management

Recent research shows experts employ four phases of crisis management, which include the following:

  1. Mitigation/prevention looks at how schools and districts can reduce or eliminate the the risk to life and property.
  2. Preparedness focuses on the process of planning for the worst-case scenario.
  3. Response deals with the steps to take during a crisis.
  4. Recovery deals with how to restore the learning and teaching environment after a crisis.

It is important to remember that crisis management is a continual process. All the plans and procedures are constantly reviewed and revised if needed. Plans can always be updated based on research, experiences, and changing vulnerabilities.

Key Principles for Effective Crisis Planning

You may be thinking that crisis planning can be a bit overwhelming. It does take time, but it is manageable. Let’s take a closer look at some practical tips on how to develop your plans.

Effective crisis planning begins with leadership at the top. Every governor, legislator, superintendent, and principal should work together to make school crisis planning a priority.

Administrators should not develop crisis plans for just one section of the school. Good planning can enhance all school functions. In other words, crisis plans should address incidents that could happen inside school buildings, on school grounds, and in the community.

Schools and districts need to open up lines of communication before a crisis. For example, school leaders should have a relationship with emergency responders well before they are needed in a crisis. Enhance the relationship with city emergency managers, public works officials, and health and medical health professionals.

Schools should tailor district crisis plans to meet individual school needs. A plan should be a series of documents targeted to various audiences. For example, a school could use detailed response guides for planners, a crisis response toolbox for administrators, and wallet cards with evacuation routes for bus drivers.

Plan for diverse needs of children and staff. Make sure to address children or staff members with physical, sensory, motor, developmental, or mental challenges. You will also need to remember that children with limited English proficiency may need special attention.

Training and practice are important components of a crisis plan. Most students and staff know what to do in case of a fire because the law requires them to take part in routine fire drills. However, how many of them know how to deal with another type of crisis? Many districts now require evacuation and lockdown drills as well. These drills also allow school districts to evaluate what works and what needs to be improved.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. What is the first step in creating a crisis plan at your school?

2. When should you change the crisis plan?

3. Which of the following is/are a key function(s) of a crisis team?

4. Schools should tailor district crisis plans to meet individual school needs.

5. Which of the following crisis planning phase looks at how schools can reduce or eliminate the risk to life and property?

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.