District Administration April 2018 - 28

SecurityMatters
Preventing trauma during
emergency exercises
Tabletop drills provide a safer environment to make sound decisions
By Ken Trump

S

chool leaders everywhere have
experienced parent, staff and student anxiety about school safety
following the tragic attack at Marjory
Stoneman Douglas High School in
Parkland, Florida.
While these emotionally charged climates are understandable, making kneejerk decisions with a "do something, do
anything, do it now" mantra can lead
to high-risk, high-liability actions that
administrators and boards may regret
down the road.
How can administrators avoid having school emergency plans collect dust
on a shelf at one extreme, while not
going over the top with hastily planned
drills that do more harm than good at
the other extreme?
Dramatic drills can be costly
Full-scale exercises and drills can be
helpful to see how multi-agency emergency response plans might play out in
a real-life crisis.
Properly planned exercises and drills
can be labor-intensive, and can take
months to plan, organize and execute.
Poorly planned exercises may be
implemented more quickly, but they
can come with a cost. One insurance
company has reportedly paid out more
than $1 million in claims for injuries
school officials have suffered during
active-shooter training over the last two
years. A company spokesperson said
most injuries involve sprains, broken

DAmag.me/trauma

28 April 2018

Tabletop exercises
provide a simulation of
emergency situations
in informal, stress-free
classroom training
environments.
bones or cuts caused by falls while participants were running.
Several years ago, an elementary
school principal broke bones in her
shoulder during options-based, activeshooter school training, while another
teacher suffered a permanent disability
to his hand and arm during a similar
training program. Some of these injuries
have resulted in lawsuits.
Leaders must also consider the potential psychological impact that highly
dramatic drills and exercises may have
on their students. We know of situations where teachers and support staff
have been traumatized during active
shooter drills. Prior life experiences with
trauma and other psychological triggers
can influence these responses.
Tabletop exercises provide options
One key word when considering school
drills is "reasonableness." Leaders can
push the envelope some by diversifying
their drills but must also beware of crossing the line of reasonableness. "Do no
harm" is a good measure for making sure
that school emergency exercises and drills
are meaningful without causing trauma.
Tabletop exercises provide a simulation of emergency situations in infor-

mal, stress-free classroom training environments. Exercise facilitators-often
professionals experienced in school
emergencies and crisis situations-provide a scenario to stimulate discussions
that help participants assess their existing plans.
Tabletop exercises also allow school
participants to examine the team roles,
responsibilities, tasks and overall logistics that may be associated with managing real-life emergencies and adjust their
school plans.
It is important to have the right
players at these exercises. Diverse participants-including district and local
crisis team members, first responders,
mental health professionals, communications staff, school support staff, and
other school-community stakeholders-can enrich the process.
Bringing these diverse perspectives
together in a half-day professional development setting can lead to substantial changes in school emergency plans.
Hypothetical scenarios addressing
common crisis incident elements-such
as parent-student reunification, mobilization of transportation and food
services, medication and nursing triage,
media communications and staging,
and other issues-can lead to substantial improvements in creating school
emergency plans.
Plans that are tweaked based upon
tabletop exercises held today can lead
to better responses should a tragic event
occur tomorrow. DA
Ken Trump (ken@schoolsecurity.org) is the
president of National School Safety and
Security Services.
District Administration


http://www.DAmag.me/trauma

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration April 2018

District Administration April 2018 - Cover1
District Administration April 2018 - Cover2
District Administration April 2018 - 1
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