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Accident and Incident Policy

Introduction

This document is prepared primarily to put in place a response mechanism to handle the management of crisis situations hereafter to be called “critical events”. Unfortunately, such events do occur and impact on College life. Events such as, the death of a student or member of staff; a natural disaster that destroys all or part of the College; an accident on an excursion involving the death or injury of students or staff. These are just a few examples of critical events. 

Schools are a focus of community attention when such unfortunate accidents occur and while it is hoped that such an incident will never occur at Thornlie Christian College, we have a responsibility to respond with a well thought out management plan that aims to assist all those affected. 

Rationale

To handle critical events in a Godly way. To ensure that staff are fully aware of the procedure that is to be followed when a critical event occurs and to designate roles that key people are to follow. 

Practice

It is the Principal’s (Deputy Principal in absence of the Principal) responsibility to determine whether or not a critical incident has taken place and whether or not to implement a crisis response. 

In the case of a critical event occurring, the Principal or one of his delegates is to obtain factual information from the relevant sources, e.g. next of kin, police etc. and determine what details are to be made public. Only the Principal is to speak to the media, should this be necessary. Should the Principal be unavailable; then the Deputy Principal will be the spokesperson. 

The Principal will establish a support team to deal with the critical event. This team may include any or all of the following: the Principal, the Principal's Personal Assistant, Heads of Schools, the College Business Manager, the College Chaplain, the College Psychologist and the Pastor of Thornlie Church of Christ. 

Information dissemination

  • A general staff meeting is to be held as soon as practical, so that staff can be fully informed about what has happened and what is expected of them in their classroom situation. Staff and the College Board should immediately be called to prayer. Accurate details are to be passed to the staff so that they can then pass correct information to students and others who may be required to know.
  • Ideally, students are informed about the situation by teachers in the smallest groups possible (pastoral care groups in the high school and class groups in the junior school). Staff should discourage rumour or speculation and limit discussion to known, correct information. In the case of a probable suicide, it is best referred to as a “tragic death” until the coroner releases the findings at the postmortem. Students are to be informed of the actions taken by the College (e.g. special memorial service) and be made aware of the availability of counselling, if needed. Students should be allowed to discuss the incident with staff and express how they feel about what has happened and pray about it. Teachers are to identify “at risk students”, who may need special counselling. Their names should be passed onto the Principal, College Psychologist or Chaplain. 
  • Parents and families are contacted. A special note may be sent home with students detailing what has happened and expressing the College’s sympathy and advising families of support services available. Parents of “at risk” students are to be contacted by telephone regarding their child’s welfare and advised of the availability of counselling assistance. At risk students may be encouraged to go home with their parents. 

Following Action

  • At the conclusion of the incident, staff are to be debriefed and made aware of counselling services available. Staff are to be informed about what to expect in future weeks and months, anniversary phenomena, etc. 
  • The College reverts to regular timetable and routines. 
  • “At risk” students to be followed up by their class teachers or pastoral care team. Any continuing concerns should be passed on to the College Psychologist. 
  • An evaluation of the event and the efficiency of the management plan in dealing with it will be conducted to determine its strengths and weaknesses.

Crisis Management

In the event of a crisis, such as a fire, bomb threat, or accident, the Principal (or the Deputy Principal in his absence) is responsible for evaluating the situation, and implementing emergency procedures to ensure the safest course of action is taken considering students, staff and visitors to the school. This policy is to be read in conjunction with the Evacuation Policy. 

Accordingly: 

All emergency equipment on site is to be checked at least once per year by a qualified person.

In the event of fire, chemical spill/leakage or other potentially life threatening hazard: 
  • The Principal is to decide whether to evacuate the premises (see evacuation procedure). 
  • The Principal will alert the proper authorities as necessary, e.g. Fire Brigade, Police. 
  • The Principal will secure the premises if it is safe to do so. 
In the event of a bomb threat 
  1. Written threat – the written material to be kept, including any envelope or container. Avoid further handling to preserve evidence, place in an envelope, preferably plastic. 
  2. Telephone threat – do not hang up, complete Bomb Threat checklist. 
The Principal to evaluate the threat by categorising as either: 

      a)  Specific – the caller/writer has provided detailed information which could include describing the device, why and where it was placed, the time of activation and other details. The specific threat is less common but more credible. 
      b)  Non-specific – the caller may state that a bomb has been placed and may give very little or no additional information before hanging up. This type of threat is more common but cannot be discredited without investigation. 

ALL THREATS SHOULD BE TREATED AS SERIOUS UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE. 

Notification 

The local police should be contacted immediately on receiving a threat or discovering a suspicious package. Local police are generally not trained in bomb search procedures. However they will assist the occupants of the building to carry out a systematic search, and will call in Police Bomb Technicians if something suspicious is found. (See Search below) 

Evacuation

Depending upon the assessed level of threat, there are four evacuation options: 
  • take no further action 
  • search without evacuation 
  • evacuate and search 
  • evacuate immediately (without search)
Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages related to safety, speed of search, thoroughness, productivity and morale and have to be assessed against potential risk. As a general rule, it is better to avoid total evacuation if possible and to consider other methods of ensuring safety in the event of a bomb threat. (see Limitations of total evacuation below) 

Search

The best qualified people to carry out a thorough search in any given area are the occupants. These people have a good understanding of what belongs or not in a location at any given time. Police generally do not have such an intimate knowledge of the threat area and would be less likely to recognise something that is suspicious or out of place. Police will assist in the search. If a suspicious object is found, they will call in bomb technicians to deal with the device. 

School staff can assist a search by looking carefully around their classroom or work area and identifying anything which does not belong there or which is not in its usual place. 

The aim of the search is to identify any object which is not normally found in an area, or for which an owner is not readily identifiable, or which becomes suspect for any other reason. For example suspiciously labelled objects – similar to that described in the threat; unusual size, shape and sound; presence of pieces of tape, wire, string or explosive wrappings, or other unfamiliar materials. 

If the decision to evacuate and search is made, people should be asked take with them all personal belongings – handbags, briefcases, shopping or carry bags. This will help in identifying suspicious objects that may be in the evacuated area. 

Priorities for searching follow a set sequence: 
  • Outside areas including evacuation assembly areas and carparks 
  • Building entrances and exits, and particularly paths people will use to evacuate 
  • Public areas within buildings. These are areas in most buildings which are accessible for placement of an object. They are also areas which evacuees pass through, or near, during an evacuation. 
  • Other areas. Once the external and public areas have been searched, a search should be conducted beginning at the lowest levels and continuing upwards until every floor, including the roof, has been searched. A room or floor should be clearly marked once searched to avoid duplication of effort. Designated staff members should assist the authorities in the search because of their intimate knowledge of the building. 
WHEN A SUSPECT OBJECT IS FOUND, DO NOT TOUCH OR MOVE IT.

The location should be conspicuously marked, eg a paper trail to the nearest exit is the most suitable. After ensuring there are no other suspicious objects in the vicinity, evacuate and isolate the area. Continue to search other areas in case there are other suspicious objects. 

Limitations of Total Evacuation

At first thought, immediate and total evacuation may seem the best response to any bomb threat. However it is generally better to ‘work around’ evacuation if possible. There are a number of factors which may weigh against an immediate evacuation: 
  • Risk of injury. Generally the easiest area to plant an object is in the shrubbery outside a building, in an adjoining car park or in an area to which the public has the easiest access. Immediate evacuation through these areas might increase the risk of injury. Car parks should not be used as assembly areas. 
  • Search limitation. Total evacuation will remove staff who may be required to make a search. 
  • Panic. A sudden evacuation may cause panic and unpredictable behaviour, leading to the risk of injury. 
  • Essential services. Some evacuations may be precluded because of the need to operate essential services in the building.
  • Loss to business services. While the protection of life should outweigh any economic loss, repeated threats may lead to loss of business and unacceptably high disruption to services. 

Partial Evacuation

This is particularly effective when the threat includes the general or specific location of the placed object, or where a suspicious object has been found without prior warning. 

Partial evacuation can reduce risk of injury by removing non-essential personnel. Personnel essential to a search can remain, critical services can be continued, and where there is repeated threat, high loss of output is avoided.

Suspect Mail Bombs/Devices 

All staff responsible for handling mail should be given a copy of this policy.

Acknowledgement: 

Parts of this policy were drawn from a briefing note prepared by AISWA with reference to Bombs: Defusing the Threat (The WA Police Bomb Squad), Emergency control organization and procedures for buildings, Section 5 – Bomb Threat Procedure Guidelines (Standards Australia: AS 3745-1995) and Department of Education SM056: Schools, Evacuation and You. Thanks also to Sergeant Dave Mallows, Senior Bomb Technician, WA Police Service Tactical Response Group.