Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines crisis as follows:
The turning point for better or worse in an acute disease or fever; a paroxysmal attack of pain, distress, or disordered function; an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person’s life; the decisive moment; and an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending; especially one with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome.
Erford (2015) notes that crisis is danger and opportunity. Although the situation one is in can be dangerous, it can also create opportunity. These opportunities exits can cause an individual to better handle stressful situations when they arise at other times. The effect of danger is relative to how well a person is able to handle stressful situations. For this reason, what may appear to be an overwhelming and stressful situation to one may be something minor to another (Erford 2015).
Some of the many crises a student or school community may face include accidental death, suicide, terrorist attacks, homicide, loss of a loved one, shootings, drug overdose, loss of teacher/staff member, etc. Natural disasters such as tornados, earthquakes and hurricanes are also considered to be forms of crises. A few of the many crises that made national headlines and impacted school communities include the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, the killings of many at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, CT and the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Hurricane Katrina which occurred in New Orleans, LA on August 28, 2005 would be an example of a natural disaster that caused crisis for students and school communities. Working in an educational setting afforded this author the opportunity to observe the work of a crisis management team in action as they counseled and intervened to assist and support students through some of these tragic events.
Crisis Management Plan The purpose of a crisis management plan is to have procedures in place before a crisis occurs. The plan is used to respond to incidents of crisis and outlines the duties and responsibilities assigned to school personnel in event of crises. It is the action plan that administration and staff will use in order to respond to a crisis (Erford 2015). The plan should include telephone numbers for the district’s safety and security departments, emergency contact information for school detectives and school crossing guards. A detailed demographics list which includes size of the school (number of classrooms), number of exits, total number of students and staff members and emergency shelter information. It should also include a list of emergency locations in the school and outside locations in case of emergency evacuations. The emergency location form should list shelter-in-place areas which describes where students/staff would relocate if necessary. The plan should detail all staff members who are First Aid/CPR/AED certified, and those students/staff members who have special needs. The plan identifies locations where crisis intervention will take place if necessary, it also addresses how communication takes place with on-site and off-site personnel (Erford 2015).
Crisis Management Team When speaking with an elementary professional school counselor, it was communicated that the members of a crisis management team should include the school counselor, principal, assistant principal, special education personnel and a staff member from each grade level. This ensures that there is someone familiar with the needs of students from different levels. Special education personnel who know and can identify those students that have special needs. Ideally, members of the school’s leadership team (if there is one) should be a part of the crisis management team (Fortson 2014). School counselors should be a part of the crisis management team as the American School