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Background

School districts across America deal with crises on a daily basis. In a school setting, there are any number of events that might qualify as a crisis, ranging from a small crisis, such as a power outage, to a life-threatening crisis, such as a natural disaster or the invasion by an armed shooter.

Because schools are often the center of a community, they become the center of media attention during a crisis. Even when a crisis does not immediately affect the school, the victims may have strong links to the school community.

Crisis Management

District leaders are required to respond to crises in a manner that demonstrates leadership and the ability to build and maintain confidence in the school. Staff, students, parents, and community members look to school leaders to be well-equipped to respond and to restore order in the time of crisis. How school leaders respond in the first 24 hours will often set the pace for the duration of the incident.

One difficult aspect of crisis management is communication. Without a clear set of guidelines to serve as a foundation for communication efforts, the crisis can spin a life of its own and, in doing so, can complicate the crisis rather than resolve it.

LINK: More about the Safe Schools Initiative

Mission of WSPRA

The mission of WSPRA is to “expand the capacity of its members to provide effective communication management for the purpose of strengthening educational opportunities for all students.” In an effort to assist districts in the area of crisis communication, WSPRA developed a Crisis Communication Tool Kit to provide districts with guidelines and examples to use during times of crisis. WSPRA recognizes that there is not a one-size-fits-all crisis communication protocol, but there are essential components to crisis communication that all school leaders should have at their fingertips.

“You’ve provided me with the tools I’ll need to be an effective communicator in a crisis. The tool kit is awesome!” – Barb Messick, Raymond School District

Objectives

The objectives of the Crisis Communication Tool Kit are:

  • To create an awareness of the need to have a communication plan in place to deal with crises
  • To provide background information regarding the basics of communication
  • To provide guidelines and information to districts as they deal with media
  • To provide communication formats and examples for districts to adopt or adapt to their specific needs when facing a crisis
  • To provide additional resources dealing with crisis communication

Target Audiences

  • District administrators
  • Building principals
  • Central office administrators
  • Police liaison officers
  • Emergency agency leadership

Crisis Communication Tool Kit Content

Members of the WSPRA Board of Directors contributed a variety of articles, templates, and samples for the Crisis Communication Tool Kit. In addition, crisis communication resources from educational agencies were adapted for inclusion in the resource.

Introduction

  • Crisis and Crisis Preparedness
  • The Basics of Crisis Communication
  • Developing and Using Key Messages
  • Role Functions
  • Portable Tools

Media Response

  • Developing Effective Media Relations
  • The Basics of Talking to the Media
  • Media Interview Preparation

Communication Response

  • Immediate
  • The First Day
  • Long-term
  • Helping Parents Communicate
  • Communication for Recovery

Samples and Templates

  • Letters
  • Templates
  • Scripts
  • District Handbook Samples
  • Media Advisories
  • Organizational Structure: Incident Command