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​8.5.1 Introduction

​Each location is responsible for creating, implementing, and maintaining an Emergency Plan, keeping in mind the moral obligation of all members of the Catholic faith to give priority to the needs of the most vulnerable members of the archdiocesan family: our children, the elderly, and others with special needs.

An emergency could include an earthquake, fire, flood, bomb threat, chemical leak or biological threat, terrorist attack, riot, or the presence of a shooter, stalker, or other intruder at the location, among other events. In collaboration with local governmental entities, including first responders and public health officials, each location should plan for these potential emergencies by creating an Emergency Plan that is suited to the location's particular requirements and physical layout and conditions.

Preparing Emergency Plans

Applicable laws denote an emergency plan that is focused on schools or houses of worship as an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). A plan that is prepared to meet OSHA and other employment-related laws and regulations is denoted as an Emergency Action Plan (EAP). When each location develops its own Emergency Plan, the location needs to consider aspects of both an EOP and EAP and must tailor its Emergency Plan to its own needs and circumstances.

To develop and implement EOPs, schools and parishes can use the helpful and detailed Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans (At a Glance​ or PDF​)​ from REMS. Guidelines for developing EAPs can be found at OSHA's How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations, and the Center for Disease Control's sample Emergency Action Plan (Template).

All Emergency Plans should include and address the following topics:

Prevention – Steps the location takes to avoid, deter, or prevent an emergency
Protection – The capability to secure people, networks, and property from harm
Mitigation – Steps taken to reduce the magnitude or impact of an emergency
Response – Steps taken to stabilize and secure lives and property during an emergency
Recovery – The action necessary to restore the location and its environment after the emergency

As each location develops its Emergency Plan, the location should include and implement the following guidelines:

  • Identify a responsible person to manage the plan if the person in charge or plan administrator​ is away from the building or becomes incapacitated

  • Assign rescue and medical duties to certain staff members and designate other staff members as backups

  • Include a plan for an emergency that may happen off the location property (e.g., a field trip or pilgrimage)

  • Prepare a portable Emergency Plan Kit

  • Identify and prioritize specific types of threats, such as an earthquake, bomb​, or the presence of a shooter, stalker, or intruder​, etc., that might require specific procedures

  • Establish lockdown and evacuation procedures

  • Establish procedures to be followed by staff members who complete critical plant operations before they evacuate (e.g., shutting off utilities and securing buildings)

  • Identify a preferred means of communicating emergencies to first responders

  • Make arrangements for alternative locations if the location must be evacuated

  • Have a reliable communication system and backup communication system

  • Maintain appropriate supplies in the event of an overnight stay

  • Notify the archdiocesan Communications Department​​​​, if possible

  • Identify support services to meet the needs of those affected by an emergency (professional agencies, personnel, support structures, etc.)

  • Establish teams of staff members who will handle first aid​, evacuation, and supervision procedures so that when necessary, there will be a backup leader for the procedures

  • Establish clear policies and procedures regarding student retention and release

  • At the beginning of each school year, communicate to parents/guardians and others on emergency forms the procedures for retaining and releasing students to parents/guardians

  • Share the Emergency Plan with all necessary public agencies, all staff, and the archdiocese

  • Develop prearranged code words to alert location staff to secure students and classrooms, inform adults that a crisis mode is activated, and give an all-clear signal

  • Place the Emergency Plan in specific locations, such as each classroom, the church, the parish hall, and the parish offices, and make sure the Emergency Plan is available to all staff

  • Post the Emergency Plan on the location's secure intranet

The plan should be reviewed and updated annually.

​Upon each staff member's initial assignment, the person in charge or plan administrator​ shall review with each staff member the parts of the plan that the staff member must know to protect life and property in an emergency. The written plan shall be kept at the location and made available for staff review; it should be posted on a secure intranet, if available. Do not post plans on the Internet as they could be used for reference by people who intend to disrupt or act adversely to the location.


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