National School Safety and Security
Services offers its thoughts, prayers, and
support to the communities devastated by Hurricane
Katrina. Our hearts are especially with the young
children and school officials whose lives have been
turned upside down by this disaster. We know that
America's strength, courage, and humanity will shine
through for a successful recovery for our teachers and
school support staff, and most of all, for our children.
Health and Educational Support Resources
Immediate and Long-Term Issues for
Relocated Students & Schools
Emergency Preparedness Lessons Learned
Mental Health and Educational
parents, and others needing resources on mental health
and educational support issues associated with children and hurricane disasters,
trauma, and post-crisis support are encouraged to visit
the following website locations:
National Association of School
Psychologists: Information for Parents and
Educators on Response to Hurricane Katrina
American Red Cross - Talking Points for
Educators: In the Aftermath of a Hurricane
The National Child Traumatic Stress
Network: Hurricane Katrina Tools and Links
School Mental Health Project: Center for Mental Health
The Educational Rights of Students in
Homeless Situations: What Service Providers Should Know
(.pdf file format download, two-pages)
Immediate and Long-Term Issues for Relocated Students &
National School Safety and Security Services
continues to identify a number of serious short-term and
long-term issues that must be addressed in a thorough
and comprehensive manner in order for schools and
children to experience the best possible management of
what will be a long and difficult recovery.
Issues to consider
Schools taking in students relocated because of
Hurricane Katrina must be equipped not only for
short-term mental health responses, but also prepared
for the long-term psychological issues associated with
relocated students evacuated from cities struck by
Hurricane Katrina. It is reasonable to expect potential
increased aggression and behavioral issues in schools
taking in many relocated students, especially if
relocated children have undiagnosed and/or untreated
mental health issues.
Educators and safety
officials in Florida have reported experiencing a spike
in child abuse and domestic violence cases following the
Florida hurricanes. It is foreseeable that similar
risks, except on a greater scale, could occur with some
individuals who were victims of Hurricane Katrina.
It is reasonable to expect that increased aggression,
acting out behavior, interpersonal conflicts and
violence, and related negative behaviors will manifest
themselves in children in school settings.
Security and school-based policing (school police,
School Resource Officers, etc.) staffing, deployment,
and related plans should be reviewed in schools and
districts experiencing a large influx of relocated
students from impacted cities.
Schools experiencing a significant influx of relocated
students may also face overcrowding. Many southern
U.S. schools are already overcrowded and students are
being housed in limited space facilities, oftentimes in
schools with many portable/mobile classroom trailers.
Steps for heightened adult supervision and security
should be considered in such facilities as overcrowding
can lead to increased interpersonal conflicts.
There will be significant financial implications for
both the school districts taking in evacuated children
and, of course, those school districts which have
experienced damage from Hurricane Katrina.
Unfortunately, it is not unforeseeable to anticipate
future continued discrepancies and conflicts across the
various levels of government (local, state, and federal)
in the recovery process. This can especially be
expected around issues associated with financial
reimbursement and recovery support. Funding
shortages for impacted schools could have adverse
implications on safety and overall school operations by
creating inadequate adult staffing and supervision,
school security and school-based policing personnel
shortages, overcrowding, lack of mental health and
related intervention services in schools, and related
Significant time and financial resources will be
required for rebuilding school facilities damaged by
Hurricane Katrina. While schools need to be
rebuilt in a timely manner, they should also be built
with safety in mind. This not only includes safety
from the perspective of heightened protection from
future natural disasters, but also should include new
school facility designs with Crime Prevention Through
Environmental Design (CPTED) and other school safety
measures built in from the on-set.
Emergency Preparedness Lessons Learned and Reinforced
National School Safety and Security Services
has been actively
reviewing the "lessons learned" and perhaps better
stated, "lessons reinforced," by Hurricane Katrina
related to school emergency planning. Many of these
issues have been discussed in our nationwide training
sessions for many years. We have to acknowledge,
however, that a disaster the size of Katrina can be of
such magnitude that even the best of school and
community emergency plans will not "fit" the given
circumstances at hand.
Katrina does, however,
cause us to remind school officials and their public
safety partners of a number of issues relevant to
school emergency preparedness including, but not limited
1) School emergency/crisis
officials need to have relationships with local
emergency management and public safety officials, as
well as a "seat" at local emergency operations centers,
far before any given emergency actually strikes.
2) Schools in "safe" areas
being used as disaster recovery centers remind us of the
importance of knowing which schools in our districts are
designated as emergency shelters and how the use of these
facilities as such would impact school operations.
Post-disaster staffing, security, policing, and
emergency guidelines for shelters should be established.
Remember that police and other public safety officials,
even normally assigned School Resource Officers (SROs),
may be pulled away from their regular school assignments
to deal with the unfolding emergency and recovery in the
3) School districts should
have plans for school buses being used to assist in
broader community evacuations. For buses that
remain in operation for the schools, does your plan
address fuel needs? Do school plans identify who
is qualified and capable of driving school buses if
regular drivers are not available? How would you
mobilize buses in a major community emergency? What
role do buses have in emergency management for cities
and counties? What happens if public safety and
emergency management officials commandeer your buses?
How would an emergency impact gas supplies? Who could
and would be able to drive school buses if regular
drivers were not available?
4) Schools should
have mechanisms in their plans for mass mobilization of
mental health support services and how these services
would be used in reestablishing normalcy and support
upon the return of children to schools after an
5) School districts should
have mechanisms in place for recording financial costs
associated with recovery from a major emergency in order
to possibly pursue reimbursement from federal and other
6) Schools should have
emergency contact information for students and staff
accessible off-site from a remote location following an
7) Build multiple layers
of leadership and back-up contingency plans for crisis
team members into our plans. Key players on your
crisis team may be directly impacted by the emergency
and unable to lead the response efforts.
8) Emergency plans
should include guidelines for family reunification
Plan on how to manage donations and volunteers in the
event of an emergency. Where will donations be
stored? How will they be inventoried and disseminated?
Who will coordinate volunteers? These two areas
are often overlooked but are very legitimate concerns to
manage following a major emergency.
10) How will school
employees be paid following a disaster? Are back-up
plans in place for direct deposits, paycheck issuance,
11) Most important above all
other issues: Have plans and back-up plans
for communications during and after an emergency. Every
school emergency, whether a natural disaster or manmade
act of violence, has taught us that the biggest problems
always arise around communications, communications, and
communications! A bit of redundancy is emergency
communications preparedness planning is not a bad thing.
We must continue to look at
Katrina's lessons from at least three angles:
1) What happened that reinforces "lessons learned" from
past school emergencies?;
2) Did anything happen contrary to "best practices" that
would require adaptation from current recommendations?;
3) What new lessons were learned that have not been
experienced in the past?
the children, their families, and our educators in their
journey to recovery!
Our family made a
donation to the American Red Cross. To make a donation to the
American Red Cross to help the victims of Hurricane
Katrina, call 1-800-HELP-NOW or visit the web site for
American Red Cross.
For questions or feedback
on this site, contact
Ken Trump, President of
National School Safety and Security Services.