Tabletop exercises strengthen school security and emergency preparedness for a crisis

Posted by on July 13, 2016

Security and emergency preparedness has been at the forefront as our hometown Cleveland prepares to host next week’s Republican National Convention, just on the heels of an impromptu 1.3 million fan downtown celebration of our NBA Champion Cavaliers basketball victory. The tragic attacks on Dallas police officers last week only heightened our local conversations about security and emergency preparedness as our city, like many others, struggles with racial and community issues around policing.

Joseph Clancy, the Director of the Secret Service, along with Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams and others met yesterday with the media to reassure Clevelanders that law enforcement is prepared. It was particularly striking to see today’s headline story focusing on the Director’s comments that tabletop exercises serve as a foundation for the Secret Service and local police preparation for massive events with heightened national security concerns.

School tabletop exercises offer realistic option for emergency planning

Tabletop exercises provide a simulation of emergency situations in informal, stress-free environments. In the school safety arena tabletop exercise facilitators, who are school safety professionals experienced in managing school emergencies and crisis situations, provide a scenario and series of events to stimulate discussions by participants who assess and resolve unfolding problems based on their existing plans. The school tabletop exercise allows school participants to examine the roles, responsibilities, tasks, and overall logistics associated with managing a similar real-life emergency situation and make subsequent adjustments in their school emergency/crisis plans.

While full scale drills are very educational, they typically are labor and time intensive. Tabletop exercises can provide a less stressful, more time effective method of taking a school’s emergency/crisis planning to the next level.

Full and half-day sessions, often done during school professional development days, allow school leaders to avoid having school emergency / crisis plans collect dust on a shelf. They also help school leaders advance their emergency planning while avoiding the missteps and controversy recently seen in some over-the-top, poorly planned full scale tactical drills.

School tabletop lessons help strengthen security and emergency plans

Tabletop exercises we have facilitated for schools, school districts and their first responders over the past two decades have revealed some common, interesting “lessons learned.”  We share a number of those lessons learned on our school tabletop exercise web page that are worth your quick read.

Moving written school emergency plans from paper to practice helps school districts, first responders and their community partners to get feel for whether what they have in writing might actually work in a real emergency.  In today’s busy education world, they also represent a reasonable balance between crisis plans collecting dust on a shelf and the very labor and time intensive full scale exercises that at times, when poorly planned and executed, have backfired on school leaders.

Have you prepared your school team with school security and emergency preparedness tabletop exercises?

Ken Trump

National School Safety and Security Services

Experts You Can Trust! 

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