Is Everybody Ready? Emergency Preparedness

These resources will help schools prepare for the possibility of pandemic flu, terrorist threats, and natural disasters. Please note that this is not a comprehensive reservoir of emergency preparedness resources. It is important to consult your local and state governments for additional information; visit for the latest news. Contact schools, colleges and universities, nonprofits, and businesses in your area about coordinating response plans. And, of course, discuss your plan with the school's legal counsel.

Your very first step? Create an emergency preparedness team (EPT) to frame your emergency plan (responding to pandemic/avian flu, terrorist, chemical, biological, nuclear, and natural threats and disasters).

Remember — emergency preparedness is everybody's responsibility.

General Emergency Preparedness Resources

NAIS’s office and staff emergency checklists

Resources for Schools

Resources for Businesses, with Applicability to Schools

Additional Guidance of Note

  • Montgomery County, MD, has a very robust website with multiple resources regarding terrorism and other disasters. In addition, the Montgomery County Public School System has developed a brochure (Emergency and Crisis Preparedness guide) and related materials for parents, guardians, and the community about emergency/crisis preparedness procedures. This is a good communications piece and is a reminder that most, if not all, public school districts have emergency procedures in place that independent schools could link to or learn from.
  • The CDC Foundation hosted a conference in Toronto in July 2005 to discuss key learnings from the SARS outbreak.


Pandemic/Avian Flu

Understanding Avian Flu

Developing a Response Plan

  • Once the school’s EPT has been appointed, one of the first steps — in addition to reviewing all of the pertinent resources — is to develop a school response plan. The U.S. government has developed one for the K-12 community as well as a school checklist.
  • It’s worth checking out the King County Health Department (KCHD) (WA) school plan. The KCHD’s plan is detailed. Thanks to the Northwest Association of Independent Schools (NWAIS) for bringing these to our attention.
  • The Overseas Schools Advisory Council (OSAC) has developed a tremendous resource for overseas schools (Procedures Handbook - Creating a Comprehensive Emergency Procedures Manual for American-Sponsored Overseas Schools), which has just been updated with a new chapter devoted to avian flu preparation; the “Pandemic Response Rubric” is a must read (scroll down to the last page).
  • The World Health Organization has links to plans from around the world — Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and United Kingdom, among others — as does the European Influenza Surveillance Scheme. Both sites are worth exploring.
  • The general counsel of the American Council on Education shared planning insights from a member institution. Includes: need to explore alternatives to classroom-based instruction delivery, establishing close coordination with local health officials, and reviewing unemployment insurance and policies.
  • The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology has developed a handy brochure on avian flu and 10 steps to prepare.
  • The Center for Early Education (CA) has developed a terrific document for both board and staff that highlights key steps for school pandemic flu preparation.

Developing a Crisis Management Plan

Legal and Risk Management Issues

  • While it is essential to consult your attorney regarding legal implications related to your school and pandemic/avian flu, a starting point for discussion with counsel might be this advisory prepared for the Association of Independent Schools in New England (AISNE) by Ropes & Gray.
  • Marsh, a risk management insurance company, has a number of very helpful resources on risk management as well as a comprehensive white paper  on preparing for a pandemic (general liability, workers compensation, pollution, and property); this document requires registration.
  • The Australian government has prepared an excellent document on risk management considerations for business, but this still has applicability to schools.


Temporary Closure/Business Continuity

  • Distance learning: OASC’s chapter on school closure is very helpful.
  • Business Continuity: The University of Minnesota’s pandemic influenza preparedness work plan has a section on considerations when planning for business continuity (p.11). The document also references questions about residential life concerns (p. 17).
    Mental Health and Trauma


Terrorist Threats

Overview and Resources

(Also refer to information included in the General Emergency Preparedness Resources and Pandemic/Avian Flu sections above and look at OSAC’s chapter on chemical and biological threats.)


Natural Disasters

Overview and Resources

(Also refer to information included in the General Emergency Preparedness Resources and Pandemic/Avian Flu sections above.)

  • Tips from the government on how best to prepare for natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes 

School Violence

  • The U.S. Department of Education has excellent resources on school safety and violence. Click here and scroll down the page to view their links.