Webinar Provides Information on Planning for Extracurricular Events
Throughout the United States, many schools have all-hazards plans on how to deal with a crisis during the school day: some more detailed than others, some drilled more thoroughly than others, but all of them outlining what to do in the event of severe weather, a fire, and even an active threat.
Far fewer have detailed plans for what to do if a crisis happens during an extracurricular activity.
A January 29 webinar presented by Campus Safety magazine and featuring Stephen Lopez, chief of police at New Mexico State University, looked at some of the issues and considerations that K12 administrators need to consider when developing an all-hazards plan for extracurricular events such as sports events, dances, concerts and field trips.
Key development considerations addressed during the opening portion of the presentation include:
- Ensure that teachers and parents take part in creating the plan.
- Look at plans developed by nearby schools and districts, and try to align plans as much as possible.
- Be sure that the plan considers practices as well as games and events.
- Ensure the plan looks at what to do when an event takes place at another school or venue.
- Create safety teams and know who is on them.
- Develop checklists for use at specific types of events.
- Have someone who is not involved in implementing the plan, such as a colleague from another school, review the plan.
- Set up a schedule for reviewing the plan.
Implementation considerations include:
- Brief students on the plan at the start of each season or the beginning of each event, and refresh the plan periodically.
- Make sure that parents and boosters know about their responsibilities under the plan.
- Ensure that field trips have adequate chaperones, and review routes for safety hazards such as traffic incidents and construction.
- Coaches and trainers have significant responsibilities and should not be expected to look anywhere but the event.
- Perform a safety check before each game or event, looking for changes in conditions, such as muddy fields or impending weather alerts.
- Ensure that all safety team members are in place and the safety check has been completed before admitting anyone to the event.
- Some events have few resources available, such as only one teacher or coach.
- Older students may have driven themselves to events and plan to leave on their own.
- Participants from other schools will not be familiar with the plan and the facility.
- It can be difficult to anticipate crowd sizes.
- Some events, such as football games, have multiple participant groups.
- Field trips and certain events such as cross country may start on school grounds and then move off campus.
- Outside groups such as community groups, scouts and churches also use school facilities.
- Incidents that occur after school can impact the next school day.
Chief Lopez then looked at several areas in more depth, including addressing the need for trained crowd managers, as required by the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code. These individuals can have other duties, but in the event of an incident, they move to helping ensure crowd safety. Crowd managers must have formal training on crowd behavior and crowd management, and must be familiar with the facility and the plan. Thus, a trained crowd manager from one school cannot work at another school without getting a briefing on its plan and its facility. According to the code, a school must have one trained crowd manager for every 250 individuals; if there are 260 individuals, a school needs two trained crowd managers.
Trained crowd managers and all other team members need proper equipment, he said, including keys to unlock gates and doors, flashlights and cellphones or radios. Schools should work with the local public safety community to gain recognition for their teams, including the possibility of gaining permission to FirstNet to give them priority access to the airwaves during an incident. Ensure that all team members have adequate training, and remember that training is not “once and done.”
Chief Lopez also reviewed three main emergency response options:
- If possible, evacuate away from the emergency. This is the best option, but a school needs to have a solid evacuation plan and team members that know how to implement it.
- If escape is not an option, shelter from a weather event or hide from an active threat. The safety team should be aware of practical limitations on available shelter and whether it can include spectators as well as participants, or if spectators will be asked to seek shelter on their own. Note that a school does not have an obligation to shelter spectators.
- Counter the emergency or fight against an active threat. This is the last resort in all cases. In some instances, such as for weather-related events, it is not possible. Even if it countering looks feasible, such as putting out a small fire, don’t wait to evacuate and call 911.