The Biggest K-12 Training Mistake

Nothing creates more liability for a District in the wake of crisis than failing to adequately

Nothing creates more liability for a District in the wake of crisis than failing to adequately train staff in how to manage emergencies in your schools. Tough questions will be asked of administrators regarding the type and frequency of training provided. To be on solid ground, the District must demonstrate their continuing commitment to responsible emergency preparedness and response.

So what is the biggest K-12 emergency training mistake?

Quite simply, it is not training at all.

A common predicament that some Districts still find themselves in, year after year.

A predicament that can have life-threatening consequences.

Your staff have signed on to be educators, not emergency managers. While their skill sets for teaching may be exceptional, the same is likely not true regarding their knowledge of how to effectively manage critical incidents within the school. To develop confidence and capability, emergency preparedness training is essential.

Typically, staff members will fall into one of the following categories, which should be utilized to develop your role specific training programs:

  • District Emergency Response Team (DERT)
  • School (Building) Emergency Response Team (SERT)
  • Greeters responsible for visitor management
  • Transportation Staff
  • General Staff (all other staff not listed above)

BONUS DOWNLOAD: Emergency Response Teams Checklist 

DERT Members

The District Emergency response team coordinates and oversees emergency management at the District level. In addition to an solid understanding of emergency management protocols, the DERT members should be well trained in:

  • The Incident Command System (ICS)
  • The Parent Reunification Process
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Media Relations

SERT Members

SERT are comprised of select staff members and are charged with planning for and managing emergencies at the school building level. SERT members will be called upon to help prevent and quickly manage a wide array of emergencies that may impact their individual schools. It is for this reason they require significant ongoing training in:

  • Threat Assessment & Mitigation
  • Emergency Management Response Protocols
  • Staff/Student Accountability


Greeters or main entrance security personnel are responsible for oversight of the schools single point of entry and all visitor management functions. They are likely to be involved in implementing one of the emergency management protocols (i.e. lockdown) should they observe a threat approaching. In addition to training in these protocols, greeters should also be trained in:

  • Conflict Resolutions
  • Principles of Custodial Law (i.e. orders of protections, custodial interference etc.)
  • Visitor Management Techniques

Transportation Staff

Transportation staff will likely be involved should an emergency occur in one of your schools. It is critical they understand the terminology and procedures each building utilizes in the event of an incident. A basic overview of emergency management protocols along with the following topics are recommended:

  • Recognizing Suspicious Activity (persons, packages etc)
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Managing Critical Incidents on Buses (Accidents, violence, hostages etc)

General Staff

Teachers, office staff, custodians, recess aides and all other general staff members play an integral part in both identification of a potential threat to the school population as well as effectively managing an emergency. Each and every staff member should receive periodic training in basic emergency management response protocols. They should have a solid knowledge of what to do in an emergency and clear expectations of how both the school and District will respond.

While updated technology and improved infrastructure can certainly strengthen a District’s ability to manage emergencies, how well staff are trained to react will be the true differentiator in potentially life and death situations. Not providing each district staff member with the appropriate type and amount of emergency management training is a recipe for failure.


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