Although there are no federal laws requiring all school districts to have emergency management plans, 32 states already have implemented a requirement for schools to have these in place as part of best practice. Guidelines from the Department of Education and State Education Agencies suggest that schools should have a policy in place to ensure the protection of staff and students in an emergency.

Typical scenarios may include an intruder on the site (with the potential to pose a risk to staff and students), a natural disaster, or a reported incident / civil disturbance in the local community which may affect the school.

The majority of schools already have features such as CCTV, fire alarms, and tools to monitor visitors or volunteers around the site – as standard. However, recent emergency situations in schools and on school campuses have caused many schools to re-evaluate their procedures.

In these situations, it is suggested that schools should work with local law enforcement agencies and school safety experts to have safety procedures evaluated to make sure they have all the elements needed to protect students in the event of a dangerous emergency. If they don’t have a plan, they should work to have one put in place immediately.

While every school will have its own unique set of rules in its emergency plans, there are general guidelines and best practices which many include, such as: arranging agreements with local governments regarding the use of district equipment and personnel during a disaster; regular training drills to ensure staff and students know what to do; and arranging notification systems for staff and families to keep informed. Guidance suggests that staff should keep agreed lines of communication open, but not make unnecessary calls to the central office, as this could delay more important communications. Instead, access to an internal e-mail system would help staff to receive information and await further instruction.

Desktop messaging tools such as NetSupport Notify help schools to send instant one-way messages to all or selected desktop users that can’t be skipped, ignored, or saved for later. Cotham School in the UK is one such example of where Notify plays an essential part in its emergency plans. Its IT Services Manager explains: “NetSupport Notify is only installed on staff PCs, and it means that it’s quick and easy to issue an alert that everyone can see at the same time – for instance, if there’s a lockdown or an internet failure. If the internet does go down and we’re unable to email out, then we’re still able to get a message to our colleagues. It saves the influx of helpdesk issues we’d otherwise receive and is an important tool in our Emergency Plan!”

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