Natural disasters have increased by 10x globally over the last century and they can strike in any place, at any time. However, schools with solid disaster management can save lives, minimize damage, and return to normal operations in less time. Learn why disaster management is important in schools, as well as five expert disaster management safety tips.
Why is disaster management important in schools?
Death, injury, and disability are the primary concerns when it comes to natural disasters. However, the fallout from a natural disaster can disrupt communities and have a tremendous psychological impact on students, too.
With a disaster management plan in place, your school will be able to:
- Save lives: In 2021, there were 770 fatalities in the United States from natural disasters. While schools can’t predict all disasters, they can certainly reduce the number of fatalities and injuries with proactive measures.
- Protect resources: You’ve invested countless resources into your school. Disaster management will help you protect expensive equipment, infrastructure upgrades, and other investments by making a plan to protect them in the event of an emergency.
- Continue students’ education: Without a disaster management plan, schools spend more time and resources reacting to a situation instead of remedying it. The more time children spend out of school after a disaster, the less likely they are to continue their education. However, with a disaster management plan in place, schools can support students, strengthen their community, and restart operations as soon as possible.
- Minimize panic: Students and staff are less at risk of panicking during a disaster if they’ve practiced drills in the past. Preparedness, planning, and practice ensure everyone follows proper protocol during a disaster, which can make the difference between life and death for everyone inside a school.
Disaster management safety tips
Two-thirds of all public school students live in a county that’s experienced a natural disaster. It’s unpleasant to consider all of the potential disasters that could affect your school, but chances are, a disaster will affect your community at some point.
Disaster plans are only useful if you create them ahead of time with a clear head. The exact details of your disaster plan will change depending on your location, but you can get started with these five disaster management tips:
1. Assess your risk level
First, consider the potential hazards that are likely in your area. This could include disasters such as:
- Extreme temperatures
Rank these potential disasters in order of most to least likely. How prepared is your school for each type of disaster? What weaknesses do you have?
2. Create SOPs for disaster response
Once you assess the potential hazards, it’s time to make contingency plans for every eventuality. Through standard operating procedures (SOPs) and other policies, you can plan your response long before a disaster comes to your community.
Ensure you create SOPs for:
- Sheltering in place
- Crisis communications
However, it isn’t good enough to make a disaster management plan once and never glance at it again. A useful plan is both realistic and up-to-date, so it’s necessary for your school to revisit its disaster plan frequently.
Consider creating a disaster management committee for your school. The committee can review your SOPs, offer suggestions, and revise the plans at least once a year. Since disaster management is a process that never truly ends, instating a committee will help you adjust your plans and stay flexible.
3. Test building safety
Disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods are deadly, but building design can mitigate the level of destruction. Building resiliency is a must, so meet with an inspector or architect to learn what improvements your buildings need. For example, if you live near the coast, you might need to retrofit your building with hurricane-proof cladding.
You might also need to make adjustments like:
- Removing fire hazards
- Adding a basement or tornado shelter
- Building permanent structures in lieu of portable buildings
- Securing items that could cause injuries in high winds
- Adding clear signage to your building with evacuation or shelter-in-place instructions
4. Leverage communications technologies
How will your school communicate internally and externally during a disaster? Traditional phone systems are often outdated and unreliable — when seconds count, you need a more robust communication technology that will get help to your school, fast.
Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology allows schools to use E911. With E911, you can share your precise location with emergency responders, automatically. First responders can see the building and room from where a call is placed, which helps them get to people in need. Plus, switching to a VoIP system can help your school comply with Alyssa’s Law and Ray Baum’s Act.
Because they operate in the cloud, VoIP solutions can also integrate with your other communication systems. For example, if you want to send text alerts to all students, teachers, staff, and parents, third-party apps make it easy to communicate with everyone with a few clicks.
Best of all, school violence prevention grants give more schools access to funding for VoIP systems. Rave Mobile Safety also makes it possible for K-12 schools to implement early intervention, foster open communication, offer mobile panic buttons, and directly integrate with 911.
5. Conduct regular drills
Do your disaster plans work in real life? The best way to test your disaster management strategy is to test it with regular drills. Not only will drills ensure that your disaster mitigation plans actually work, but they also help everyone in the school stay calm during a real emergency.
Be sure to look at your response metrics after every drill. For example, if you need to empty out the building in 10 minutes and it took 15 minutes, that’s an opportunity for improvement.
How can Dice help?
You can’t control natural disasters, but you can control how your school responds to them. With hundreds of vulnerable students, staff, and teachers inside a school, it’s critical to create effective disaster plans that ensure everyone gets home safely.
Technology is an essential part of disaster management communications. Dice Communications creates and manages VoIP systems for schools that help keep everyone safe during a disaster. Enjoy enhanced 911 calling, smart integrations, and notification systems to mitigate the effects of a disaster on your school. Learn how Dice can help with disaster management in your school.
The four phases of disaster management are:
In addition to gun violence, schools can experience many types of natural disasters, including:
- Volcanic eruptions
The best way to promote disaster risk reduction in schools is through:
- Disaster plan SOPs
- Improving building safety
- Communication technology like VoIP
- Regular drills