Accounting for People During Times of Crisis

Develop your plan now so you can minimize confusion and liability when an emergency occurs.

Regularly Update Your Plan

When the accounting-for-people plan is firmly established, further steps must be taken to develop feasibility. Response plans should be considered “living” documents that require regular review and thorough drills and exercises. They should be written in a manner easily understood by all staff. With this in mind, individuals should:

  • Review the process on a regular basis. A written plan is not very helpful if it cannot be acted upon. It is imperative that all vested parties be familiar with the protocol surrounding both the accounting-for-people plan and the crisis event procedures.
  • Test the process. Your plan is only as effective as the individuals who carry it out. Your campus security office should conduct regularly scheduled drills of the evacuation and accounting for people procedures so that all employees and students are familiar with the plan and know where to go and what to do.
  • Correct and reevaluate the plan. A successful drill or exercise should identify gaps or procedural changes to move the plan forward. Review the exercises with the team to identify these issues and integrate these into your plan.
  • Conduct a drill at the start of each new school year. Students and staff change each year and the beginning of the school year is a good time to conduct a drill to build their awareness of the plan. Some explanation of the process will need to occur prior to the drill. This can be accomplished via email or at new student orientation. It also is a good opportunity to update contact information and pass that along to the coordinators.

Create the Full Crisis Plan

Accounting for people is just one part, albeit a very important one, of your overall crisis plan. The best way to handle a crisis event is to have a clear, easily executable crisis plan already in place – a plan that was developed and practiced under normal operating circumstances. The first consideration when developing a crisis plan is to identify and train your planning team. It’s important to have a point person charged with coordinating and leading employees in the event of a crisis. This perso
n will know your plan forward and backward and will be a leader under pressure and will be the go-to person for the accounting-for-people coordinators.

Your crisis team should include representatives from key areas across campus, including security and campus law enforcement, management, human resources, legal, finance, IT and public relations. With input from cross segments, your plan will cover key issues each area may face during a crisis and help with recovery efforts.

For example, HR will be invaluable with providing contact information for employees. As the keeper of employee records, HR will have the most up-to-date records. If it’s been a while since this information has been updated, HR should consider establishing best practices for keeping employee contact information current.

Campus law enforcement or security officers will provide input on keeping people safe and should know the layout of the campus, while the IT representative will have knowledge of the limitations of the computer systems and back-up capabilities. The public information officer will be the spokesperson for the organization. They will play the critical role of providing updates on the response and general operations. When the crisis team is in place, the accounting-for-people coordinators can be identified.

Conduct a Crisis Risk Assessment

Recognizing the different types of potentially hazardous situations that could place your students, faculty, staff and visitors in danger is necessary to customize your plan. What is the chance of a fire or an explosion? Is an active shooter a potential threat? Is the campus situated in a high-risk location for severe storms, flooding, wildfires or other natural threats? A brainstorm session on the “what-ifs” is key to understanding the potential risks to your campus.

No one wants to experience a crisis, but if the unthinkable happens, having a well-developed and practiced crisis plan in place and an accounting-for-people team ready to step in at a time of crisis, you will have peace of mind knowing that you’ve taken the crucial steps to protect your most valuable assets – your people.

As FEI’s senior director, Terri Howard is responsible for working with clients to ensure they are prepared for, can respond to and recover from a crisis incident. Visit for more information.



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