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  • Writer's pictureAMISA

How Pepared Are We?

By Érica Dias Crisis Management on a Daily Basis at Escola Americana de Belo Horizonte

“Miss, I don´t wanna go to class ‘cause I´m scared the next time will be for real…” This came from an 8-year old child who was absolutely terrified after a lockdown drill and a fire drill a few months later. It is a valid feeling and one that is shared by many community members, infants, teenagers and adults of any national or international association. Both sides of a school community — the parents and the staff — worry about their safety and the safety of their children while on campus. The questions imposed are: how do we respond to potential situations and are we really prepared for an actual danger?

The answers are not so simple, but they will always go along those old lines of “better safe than sorry”. Last July, AASSA hosted the Crisis Management training in Miami alongside the Business Managers Meeting, during which schools were able to share their plans, their questions and assess their readiness to an event. Have we progressed from then to now? Half of the school year has gone. What issues do we still have to address? The steps might be simple, but consistency of practice is the key.

We were taught that the first step is to determine who our stakeholders are and then to evaluate the school’s risks and hazards. The latter needs to be considered and reassessed frequently to determine if any additional procedures should be created to cover for existing gaps.


After this step, it is important to create prevention procedures in order to avoid responsive actions. “Better safe than sorry”, I keep telling myself. Often, staff overlooks simple security instructions such as wearing an ID badge (everybody knows me, right?), leaving their computers on until the following day, leaving campus unannounced, and so on. Little details may become bigger issues such as intrusion of former employees, fire, and unaccounted persons in case of an emergency (yes, the rescue team will come back for you if you are not listed as off of campus!)Readiness is vital, which necessitates advance training. It is exhausting to be the obnoxious team member who keeps telling their workmates to wear a nametag or update their after-school release forms, but someone must take responsibility for it. The question is: is it only my responsibility to do it? If not (of course it is not!), how do we keep other people engaged in these issues as well?


Training. That´s the answer. When that 8-year old student came to me and said he was scared, I made him a part of the training. I made him own it. How? First of all, I explained to him that training is a necessary tool to make sure we are ready for a bad situation in case it happens. We do not want it to happen, but if it does, the bad people will know that we are ready for them! (Angry, silly face!) We will know what to do in an emergency because we will act just as we did during the training. We will know how to take care of it. After consoling him, I invited him to join me as an apprentice of the Crisis Management Team to double-check doors when we do our next lockdown drill. He left the room empowered. The little boy, a bit on the frail side, left feeling like a super hero. He couldn´t wait for the next drill to take place. Next time may not be a simple drill… but if it is not, I know he and I will be ready for it.



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