Crisis Communications & Our School

Crisis Communications & Our School
Posted on 03/06/2019

From Marci Minor, District PR Coordinator Sunday morning was a scary event for our town as we awoke to a sound like a jet engine and an orange, fiery sky; organized chaos ensued as information was released of a pipeline explosion on Highway 15. Even though it was 4:00 a.m., the north side of town looked like a crowd leaving from a Friday night football game as people walked the streets and a line of cars considered either evacuation or driving closer for a better view. As we all waited to hear what was going on, comments were flying, videos were posted, and photos were shared.

When the explosion occurred, where did you first look for information? Did you text or call a friend? Turn on the radio? Check Facebook?

Our “need to know right now” society sometimes causes us to dwell and react on opinions of what happened rather than the facts. We certainly saw some of this on Sunday morning social media and even incorrect information on TV outlets. Many thanks to our reliable, local options like the Audrain County Sheriff’s Office, Mexico Public Safety, KXEO/KWWR radio, The Mexico Ledger and others who kept us all up-to-date.

Let’s turn the tables to our local school district. There are many levels to a crisis, but when one occurs, where do we look for information that is reliable and accurate? Even just a decade ago, school districts would have had a little more time to gather the information before releasing it, but in today’s electronic age, we are aware that we can’t beat the social media game or that text from a child to a parent.

Depending on the level of a crisis situation, there are many responders during a school emergency: teachers, counselors, staff, parents, medical personnel, police, fire, and more. Although any incident can certainly be a stressful and uneasy situation, student and staff safety is the number one priority. Safety protocol will be followed as the event is properly and legally investigated. Sometimes all the facts cannot be released publicly due to laws like FERPA and to protect individuals involved. Then, the school district will release information via phone call, school app, social media, and local media outlets, in collaboration with Mexico Public Safety. Here are some reminders:

**Remain calm and wait for information from the school district. We will call, email, and post as often as we have information to share.
**Stay away from the school and/or emergency site. Emergency responders and school district employees will need to focus on the needs of students/staff. Phone calls and parent arrivals on campus make this difficult.
**Avoid calling the school or district office for more information. We will continue to share information or updates with parents and community members as it becomes available.
**Trust us to keep your child safe, just like you do every day. This is difficult if you’re feeling emotional or a sense of panic. But picking up a child can send a message to children that school is not a safe place, which interferes with learning on other days.
**Our teachers and staff are trained to respond to emergencies in a way that protects the well being of every student in our care. This is our most important goal every day, and especially during emergencies.

Social media has dramatically changed how people discover, consume, and respond to information. Once our school has accurate and factual information to provide, we will participate in the social media discussion because we are aware that it is today’s most convenient news source. Our district appreciates your support and trust as we commit to open, two-way, and credible dialogue, especially during a crisis.