FEMA Adds a 5th Phase of Emergency Preparedness

For those of you who have designed your emergency response plan around the4 Phases of Emergency Preparedness, you should know that there has been a change to that structure. FEMA has added a fifth phase: Protection. The 5 phases now look like this…

Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery

Prevention – the capabilities necessary to avoid, deter, or stop an imminent crime or threatened or actual mass casualty incident. Prevention is the action schools take to prevent a threatened or actual incident from occurring.

Protection – the capabilities to secure schools against acts of violence and manmade or natural disasters. Protection focuses on ongoing actions that protect students, teachers, staff, visitors, networks, and property from a threat or hazard.

Mitigation – the capabilities necessary to eliminate or reduce the loss of life and property damage by lessening the impact of an event or emergency. In this document, “mitigation” also means reducing the likelihood that threats and hazards will happen.

Response – the capabilities necessary to stabilize an emergency once it has already happened or is certain to happen in an unpreventable way; establish a safe and secure environment; save lives and property; and facilitate the transition to recovery.

Recovery – the capabilities necessary to assist schools affected by an event or emergency in restoring the learning environment.

If you don’t already have a copy of FEMA’s Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans, simply click here for a free download. In addition, I am a trained EOP/Emergency Operations Plan facilitator and would be happy to help if you need to update your plan. Simply contact me here.

How do I sort through the research, lists & checklists when assessing a potential threat?



Here’s how to sort through the research, lists and checklists used to assess a potential threat. There are a lot of different lists and checklists out there that tell us what we should consider when making an assessment of someone’s potential dangerousness.  It’s a lot to consider.

There are essentially two types of risk or threat assessment approaches: nomothetic and idiographic. In the field of criminal profiling, the goal of nomothetic study is to accumulate knowledge about general or average characteristics of offender groups.  The goal of idiographic study is to determine unique characteristics of a particular offender responsible for a specific crime (Turvey, 2012).

Essentially we are using nomothetic study when we assume that what has gone before is a reasonable gauge to determine what may come (Calhoun, 1998).  Many lists of potential school attacker warning signs and behaviors are based on this method.  We then look at an individual’s behavior and assess risk based on similarity to behaviors and patterns that have resulted in violence in the past.  We must remember, however, that “statistical information is based on what has happened in the past.  It cannot predict the specifics of any future threat beyond simply confirming that in the past, with threats of similar character, certain patterns held true” (Calhoun, 1998).

It is for this reason that I believe we also need to conduct an idiographic study of the individual at hand. What is this person’s behavior, language and writing telling us about his/her current state of mind? Has this individual first come to our attention when he or she has already begun to climb the ladder of escalation toward a violent act, perhaps by testing or breaching security?

We might look at a list that shows violent past as an indicator for for future violence, and decide on that basis that this individual is not a threat. But, there would be a flaw in this reasoning. Past violence is correlated with future violence in many situations, but it is not necessarily so in school attacks.

Does a checklist tell you what to do when a given individual makes you feel nervous, or when a teacher is overheard telling another teaching that this parent makes him or her uncomfortable but she can’t put her finger on what it is?

These are some of the many things to consider when assessing an individual of concern. The past does teach us a great deal, but we must still heed the signals of the present.

If you have concerns about someone’s behavior and aren’t sure what to do next, read this.

Wondering which facet of school safety to tackle first?

School safety

The school year has begun and there are so many things we must attend to. School safety is an extremely important issue, but how do you know where to invest your time and money first?

Which facets of school safety you should tackle first

Start with the basics. If you haven’t already done so, maybe this is the year to perform a site vulnerability assessment.  This will allow you to locate and repair all those little things that could cause an injury to someone.

Perhaps you’d like to conduct a student school climate survey. We know that students’ perception of school climate is what really matters when it comes to feeling accepted and bonded to school.  Kids are often aware of issues that we, as adults, can easily miss.

Why not go a step further and do a staff or parent school climate assessment?

The information obtained by any of these three surveys will give you valuable information about what needs to be addressed to create the safest school possible. An added bonus is that you can use the data to apply for funding and to track your progress along the way.