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School Emergency Preparedness: Status Assessment at the State, District, and School Levels

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2019
17 pages

To determine the status of schools’ emergency preparedness for violent events and the interaction among federal, state, district, and schools in this security effort, a four-phase 2-year study was conducted, and its methodology and findings are presented in this report.



Phase I of the study involved a review of federal and state guidelines and mandates for school safety planning. In phases II and III, a survey was administered to district safety and security directors and superintendents, followed by a review of security guidelines and mandates for a subset of districts. Phase IV involved conducting and analyzing interviews with administrators of 37 schools. This report indicates that federal and state websites on school emergency planning provide a wealth of information that schools can use in their planning for emergency events, such as violence. Despite the limitations in some states regarding the provision of clear guidance on school emergency planning, several model states are effectively and efficiently disseminating information to their schools. The analysis of district survey results suggests that school districts throughout the country have high expectations for their efforts in planning for a violent emergency event. The size of a district was a key predictor of the level of its schools’ emergency preparations, with larger districts feeling more pressure to design and implement emergency planning for its schools. School-level interviews indicate that school administrators experience strong pressure to develop detailed ;plans for a violent emergency and to use modified drills and training programs for students and staff. In some cases, schools are including an “empowerment” model, in which students and staff are encouraged to break protocols to ensure their survival.


Date Published: March 1, 2019