Researchers used a three-stage approach to increase awareness and assess the capacity of the nation's schools to prepare for and respond to terrorist attacks. Stage 1 of this work involved intensive site visits and assessments of selected schools. Information garnered during these visits was used to develop survey instruments that will be used to collect data from a representative sample of school districts around the country, conducted during Stage 2. In Stage 3, investigators performed a detailed analysis of the survey results.
Consistent with recent research on the preparedness of schools for an emergency or crisis, this study found that administrators of schools and school districts are most prepared for an emergency or crisis when it comes to having an emergency crisis plan (GAO 2007, Kano et al. 2007, Smith et al. 2001). Additionally, qualitative results suggest that obstacles to school safety preparedness included financial resources, training, time and for some, their isolated rural location. Primary Findings for Schools and School Districts
- Response and Recovery Plans and Teams: More than 90% of school and district administrators reported having a crisis response plan and crisis response team compared to less than 40% that had a recovery plan and recovery team.
- All-hazards approach: Less than 65% of school and district administrators reported that it was "very true" that their emergency response plan followed an all-hazards approach.
- Plans for Terrorist Attack: About one fourth of school (26%) and district (21%) administrators reported that their plans did not include planning for terrorist threats (such as chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive incidents).
- Plans for a Pandemic: About half of school (50%) and district (30%) administrators reported that their plans did not include provisions for dealing with a pandemic.
- Planning for Special Needs of Students: Only 57% of principals and 50% of district superintendents reported that their emergency plans included provisions for students with special needs had been "completely implemented." And, only 52% of principals and 46% of superintendents reported that their emergency plans included provisions for students with medical needs had been "completely implemented."
School and School District Safety and Preparedness Strengths On average, school principals reported scores in the highest response category on a 4 point scale ("very true", "completely implemented", or "always") for having:
- positive student teacher rapport;
- clearly defined policies regarding student behavior/code of conduct;
- supervision of students in important school settings;
- comprehensive emergency plan procedures; and
- crisis response team roles and responsibilities established.
On average, school district administrators reported scores in the highest response category on a 4 point scale where they report having "completely implemented":
- comprehensive emergency plan procedures, and
- Crisis response team roles and responsibilities established.
A stratified random sample of 2,800 school district superintendents and a randomly selected principal in one of their schools were emailed a web-based surveyed to assess their current state of vulnerability and preparedness for an emergency/crisis including a terrorist threat. The sample was stratified by: those districts receiving funding to improve preparedness, region (state), geographic location (rural, urban, suburban) and school district size. During fall 2007, researchers sent letters to school district superintendents explaining the study along with an incentive of two $5 Starbucks gift cards, one for the superintendent and one for the randomly selected principal. The letter was followed by an email to the selected school district superintendents with a link to the survey with their id and password along with directions to forward the email to the selected principal for completion of the principal survey. A total of 813 superintendents or emergency managers completed the district survey, and 656 principals completed the school survey for a response rate of 34% and 27%, respectively. The online survey, which took approximately 15 minutes for superintendents and one hour for principals to complete, was designed to measure of a variety of indicators within the four quadrants of emergency management and crisis response (prevention/mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery).