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Traffic Control in a Crisis, pg1 – Vol. 2



911 What is your emergency?
“This is Southside Elementary and we have a situation here!”

TRAFFIC JAMThis brief interchange launches a crisis almost everyday at some school in the United States. The scenario usually follows the same path. News media listen on their scanners so that they can be the first one on the air with a dramatic event. They start sending reporters and crews because school problems are big news. A few parents will hear the 911 dispatcher on scanners; others will hear it through the grapevine as “Rumor Central” swings into action. They start calling the school and going there. They are going to remove their child from the danger zone regardless of the consequences of their actions on others. Many will go to school to volunteer their help. As the emergency response system moves into action, Police, Fire, Rescue and Medical vehicles converge on the school. The Principal is trying to maintain control over the students while insuring that they are moved from harm’s way. The office is vacated, as every administrator is involved in the crisis. Phones are ringing with no one to answer them.

The Police are looking for someone to tell them exactly where the emergency is but office personnel are no where in sight. News reporters start stopping students and teachers and asking for information. Some parents have found their children and taken them home; without checking out because they were in too big a rush with the crisis. Eventually, the Police have enough officers on site to enforce traffic control and they start blocking roads to keep parents, news media and rubber-neckers out. However, they offer no information because they do not know yet themselves. Parents start to panic as they are stopped short of school, told nothing and are away from their phones.

News reporters begin to send what they have, “We are on the scene of the crisis at Southside. There are Police and other emergency vehicles everywhere. One distraught student told me she thinks there is a bomb. For some reason, Police are not allowing us any access and will not confirm the existence of a bomb. We encourage everyone to avoid the school area to allow the Emergency Vehicles free access in and out. Our hopes and prayers are with the students as they face this ordeal.”

Chaos! This scenario can be prevented. Traffic Control in a Crisis, pre-planned and implemented immediately, will slow or eliminate the natural escalation of a crisis. There are two elements
of traffic control:

The control or management of communications is perhaps the most critical element of any crisis situation. The Principal must have effective communication, internally and externally, from initiation through resolution and follow-up. All assumptions will fail. Only planned procedures will work. Everyone in the school should have a written plan telling them who is responsible for calling 911 and in which circumstances anyone and everyone is expected to call. The plan should include a checklist of what to say. It is not unusual for people to be unable to give their own name or address in a crisis.  Continue

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