Communication During Emergency Situations


One of the most important elements in a school’s emergency plan is how to communicate with teachers, parents, and caregivers that a threat exists on campus. It’s vital that the schools be able to communicate to parents and caregivers that their children are safe and how they can be reunited with their loved ones.

Use Effective Radio Communication

One must assume that during an emergency, getting to a phone will be difficult. As such, it’s recommended that schools invest in a comprehensive two-way radio system. An adult with a radio on their person will be able to alert other staff members that a threat is on campus without having to compromise their position or risk being seen trying to get to a phone. The more staff members that have radios, the better. Traditionally, radios are reserved for administration, custodians, PE teachers, and office staff. However, giving all staff members access to their own radio can save lives. Radios can be set to just broadcast on certain channels. Meaning that teachers won’t be inundated with operational messages throughout the school day, but radio channels can be overridden to allow for emergency broadcast system alerts to go through as needed.

Establish Parent Communication Tools

Schools should have a variety of methods in place for communicating with parents about important information, including email, text, and phone. The reason behind having multiple methods is simple: not all parents will be able to get to their phone and listen to a voice message, not all parents have smartphones to receive text messages, just as not every parent will have an email account. Sending a message out through multiple platforms gives schools a better chance of reaching the greatest number of parents and guardians possible. Messages should include information about the situation, what parents should or should not do, and, when applicable, where they can be reunited with their children. Messages to parents and guardians should be designed to ease fears and quell confusion or panic. The last thing a school needs in an emergency is for hundreds of parents to drive down to the school clogging up roadways and creating more confusion. Additionally, having a message go out in multiple languages will help ensure that all families understand the situation and know how they can best support the school at that moment.

Utilize School Intercom Services and Classroom Speakers

Educators must have a way to alert staff, students, and parents on campus to a potential threat. Not all situations will occur when every student is seated at their desk and able to hear the classroom intercom. Students and staff may be out on the playground, athletic field, cafeteria, auditorium, hallways, or at the front of the school during drop-off or dismissal. The best solution is to have a school announcement system that can alert stakeholders on campus and help to quickly direct them to safety. Administrators should test speaker levels to ensure that alerts can be heard above the noise of the cafeteria and at great distances on a playground or athletic field. Traditionally, most school intercoms and speakers can only be accessed in the front office. Because time is often of the essence, schools should put in place ways for all staff members to be able to create an alert on the intercom from any phone at the school. Precious time can be saved when a teacher at the back of the school can get an alert out to the entire school rather than taking the time to relay the information to the front office.

About the Author

Dr. David Franklin, Ed.D. is a nationally and internationally recognized speaker and an experienced school administrator, consultant, curriculum designer, and professor of education. Dr. Franklin has presented at education conferences around the world delivering keynotes and breakout sessions and is currently serving as National Education Consultant for Securly.

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