Mon | Oct 15, 2018

Critical Incident Management Plan key to safety in schools

Published:Sunday | December 24, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Children file out of their classrooms at Glendevon Infant and Primary under the direction of their teacher as part of a safety drill.

In an effort to develop and engender a culture of safety and security in all schools, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has issued guidelines to address critical incidents as they arise.

The ministry has also provided specific criteria to schools in developing a Critical Incident Management Plan (CIMP) for a Safe School Environment. This has come against the background of schools' administrators needing to respond to urgent critical incidents and the need to manage these crisis situations effectively.

One of the schools attempting to ramp up its safety measures is the Glendevon Primary and Infant School in St James. To ensure that everyone is safe while on the grounds of the school, the administrators have implemented a Critical Incident Management Plan. They were guided in part by the move to establish an infant department and having to meet the required 12 standards for early childhood institutions as outlined by the Early Childhood Commission (ECC).

Principal since 2013, Susan Simms said that one of the standards required all infant schools to have a management policy in place that ensures the safety of all children, family, and staff well-being. To meet these ECC standards, the school has worked with various stakeholders to achieve this mandate.

The Critical Incident Management Plan requires schools to:

- Foster and create a safe school climate

- Manage crises effectively by use of pre-determined plan of action

- Take swift action in the event of a critical incident

- Minimise panic and confusion by preparing guidelines that ensure safety and security

- Establish and maintain a critical incident management team

Simms, a 2017 Lasco Principal nominee, recalls a recent flare up of violence in the proximity of the school, and this called for the CIMP to be put into action. As the captain of the ship, alongside her supporting staff, Simms placed Glendevon Primary and Infant on an emergency lockdown. The mission? Keep everyone on the compound safe.

"All staff knew their role and every student knew what was expected of them. It is important that all schools have a committee, with each individual knowing their role and responsibilities," she says.

This goal is quite achievable by all schools as laid out in the policy that governs the CIMP. The ministry has laid out key components to ensure that all schools have the same agenda where safety is concerned. The following sections are included in the manual:

- Understanding critical incidents

- The Critical Incident Management Team

- Planning for a Critical Incident Management Response

- Preventative Response Strategies

- Interventive Response Strategies

- Forms for Managing the Critical Incident Process

 

WARNING SIGNS

 

Schools are encouraged to partner with other stakeholders, including the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Fire Brigade, in executing the ministry's safety mandate. For their part, the Glendevon Primary and Infant school sought the help of the Jamaica Fire Brigade in carrying out fire drills and the testing of fire extinguishers.

One recommendation from Simms is that there should be clear assembly points and exit signs that aid in the execution of an effective CIMP. The Critical Incident Management Plan prepares schools for various incidents that may arise, including fights among students, break-down of staff and student relationship, gang activity, vandalism, drug use, assault, death, suspected child abuse, fire, and natural disasters. Schools are encouraged to have a pre-plan, an immediate action plan, and a follow-up action.

Also, if a critical management Plan is to be effective, it must be simple, tested, and revised to address the issues that may arise as the years progress. To ensure that there is a workable plan, it must also have key features of assigning duties to staff, providing of support services, assisting students with special needs and training of staff to be alert to warning signs that precede an incident.

As with Glendevon, all schools are expected to train their staff to respond with urgency to any situation. Simms encourages all staff to be aware of what is expected and the codes that are assigned for eventualities. This knowledge was very effective in maintaining a calm environment during a situation that could have resulted in total panic.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information encourages all Jamaicans to work with our schools to maintain standards of good social behaviour and to support their efforts towards promoting sound values and attitudes both in school and in our communities. Safety and security is our priority!

- Article courtesy of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.