Unrealistic Emergency Plans Can Hurt You

Don’t set your people up for failure by creating plans they can’t carry out.

While evaluating a school crisis plan for a client yesterday, I noticed a potential problem that I find in the majority of plans we evaluate.  This plan included a number of affirmative and inflexible statements to indicate that employees would always perform certain actions that are probably unrealistic. 

For example, the plans stated that all employees always wear their staff identification cards. While this is an ideal goal and the wearing of photo ID badges is a critical part of a reasonably reliable approach to access control for a K12 school, in a court of law, the wording can be taken to indicate that the district has achieved and will maintain 100 percent compliance with this policy. 

We also routinely find numerous references indicating that all persons in a given category will be evacuated and accounted for during emergencies.  Given the chaotic nature of crises and how quickly some types of emergency situations develop, it is not always possible to ensure the safe evacuation of every person in a facility. In fact, in some instances, a staff member could inadvertently allow the serious injury and/or deaths of a number of students because they try to locate one or two students and miss the opportunity to move a large number of students to safety.  In such a case, the primary concern is a missed opportunity to protect a larger number of people from harm rather than exposure to civil liability.

Take the time to evaluate your organization’s written safety, security and emergency preparedness plans for statements that are beyond the ability of your staff to actually carry out.  Doing so may not only prevent needless exposure to civil liability, but more importantly save lives.

Related Articles:


If you appreciated this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

About the Author


Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a global non profit campus safety center. During his 30 year campus safety career, Michael has served as a university police officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He served as a school system police chief for ten years before being appointed the lead expert for the nation's largest state government K-20 school safety center. The author of 25 books on school safety, his work has taken him to Central America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. Michael welcomes comments, questions or requests for clarification at [email protected]. Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century

This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!

Get Our Newsletters
Campus Safety HQ