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Injuries and fatalities part 2

In the second of my posts about injuries and fatalities, I’m going to look what you should consider in terms of your school’s business continuity.

Let’s start with an example of the worst kind of incident. On 13 March 2012, a coach carrying a Belgian school party back home from a skiing holiday crashed in a tunnel in Switzerland. In total 22 children, two teachers and the two drivers were killed, and a further 24 pupils were hospitalised. It was truly an awful tragedy, and the consequences to the pupils, their families and the wider school community are unimaginable. The school leaders involved suddenly found themselves having to react to the event at the same time as coping with their own shock and grief.

While there is no easy way to deal with a situation like this, having clear and practised plans in place for such an eventuality means that school leaders can ensure that the immediate aftermath is managed professionally and with as much empathy as possible.

Preparing

This kind of event may be the worst case scenario, but if we can prepare for this level of disaster then aspects of our plans can also be applied to lesser events that may cause injury to pupils – right down to a fall on school premises resulting in a broken leg.

It’s important to remember that incidents such as the Belgian crash are rare, when you consider the number of school trips that take place. We shouldn’t wrap our children up in cotton wool and deny them life experiences; by making robust plans we can send them away confident that we are able to deal with any consequences.

Contact list

Below (in no particular order) is a list of people you would need to contact and liaise with in a major incident involving injury or fatality overseas:

  • Parents of the children affected (police will inform next of kin with your liaison)
  • Local police*
  • All other parents*
  • All staff*
  • Governors*
  • Foreign and Commonwealth office*
  • Police at scene, possibly via Foreign and Commonwealth office
  • Coroner’s Office*
  • Overseas hospitals where pupils and staff have been taken
  • Local hospitals (ready for any that are returned to local care)*
  • Children’s counsellor (ready to deal with affected pupils at the school)*
  • The coach company
  • Insurance company*
  • Local radio*
  • Other local media as appropriate*

The list is not exhaustive and you may think of others. The ones marked with an * should already be listed in your major incident plans; the rest would have to be put together before the beginning of the trip.

Tasks

As you can imagine there would be a great number of tasks to be completed given this scenario. We work with schools to produce a plan with a list of tasks allocated to various people who can then get straight on with them without having to stop and think. This is especially important in a scenario such as this, when everyone would be in shock.

Tasks would include things like sending a team to the scene to liaise with local services and visit the injured (don’t forget they will be affected by this and need a lot of reassurance). Another might involve a designated person liaising with your insurance company to arrange repatriation as appropriate.

As always when dealing with any kind of adverse situation, it’s absolutely vital to record everything you do and every decision you make in order to protect yourself from post-incident litigation.

Philip has been specialising in business continuity and incident management in schools for many years.  His school’s incident management system, containing 25 specialised plans, is now used by over 30 schools.  For more information go to www.continuitywest.co.uk/schools call 01225 220052 or email philip@continuitywest.co.uk