In the education community, we like to make decisions through committees and with consensus. But there is no time to form a committee when you have an irate parent threatening in the main office or when an active shooter is in the school.
Principals need to have a solid chain-of-command in their school emergency plans. Everyone must know who is charge in the event the principal is unavailable or incapable of leading the response to a crisis.
It is not uncommon for us, in our school emergency preparedness evaluations, to visit elementary schools where there are no assistant principals. If the principal is at central office for a meeting, and a crisis occurs at the school, who is officially in charge? Do all staff members know who is in charge and is it formally outlined in the building-level crisis plan?
We also see a need for a chain-of-command being formally delineated in secondary school building plans where are there are multiple administrators. A situation could arise when the principal is not in the building or is incapacitated during the emergency.
In the absence of the secondary principal, if there are multiple assistant principals, there could be a hesitancy for one to take charge if he/she is not formally appointed to do so. The last thing we want to see is one assistant principal assuming the other has taken the lead, and in reality no one has taken the lead. And there may be a point where one person must quickly make command decisions.
Does your school crisis plan include a formal chain-of-command?
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