Critical Incident Policy

What is a critical incident?

“A critical incident is any incident or sequence of events which overwhelms the normal coping mechanism of the school and disrupts the running of the school”.
•    Death, major illness/ outcome of disease (foot/mouth)
•    Criminal incidents (e.g. Dunblane shooting)
•    Major or serious incidents (e.g. Navan bus crash)
•    Suicide
•    Civil unrest, war (refugees may be traumatised by events that happened elsewhere)
•    Fire, natural and technological disaster (e.g. school ceiling collapsing in Cork)
•    Disappearance of student from home or school (e.g. Middleton incident in Cork)
•    Unauthorised removal of student from school or home.

Critical incidents management team:

•    Leadership role: Mr. John Slattery.
•    Home school liaison officer: Mr. Martin Meade.
•    Student liaison/ Counseling role: Sister Marie Galvin.
•    Chaplaincy role: Fr. Michael Harding.
•    Board of management rep: Ms. Dolores Fitzpatrick.
•    N.E.P.S.: Ms. Therese Brophy.

The First named person has the responsibility as defined.
The second named person assists and only assumes responsibility on the absence of the first named.

Roles and Responsibilities:
Leadership Role:

Confirm the event:
•    Activate the C.I. response team.
•    Express sympathy to family.
•    Clarify facts surrounding the event.
•    Make contact with other relevant agencies.
•    Decide how news will be communicated to different groups (staff, pupils, outside community).

•    Ensure provision of ongoing support to staff and students.
•    Facilitate any appropriate memorial events.
•    Review plan.

Communication Role:

•    With the team prepare a public statement.
•    Organise designated room to address media promptly.
•    Ensure telephone line free for outgoing and important incoming calls.
•    Liaise with relevant outside support agencies.

•    Review and evaluate effectiveness of communication response.

Home school liaison/ counseling role:

•    Outline specific services available in school.
•    Put in place clear referral procedures.
•    Address immediate needs of staff (e.g. Information or Counseling).

•    Ongoing support to vulnerable students.
•    Monitor class most affected.
•    Refer on, as appropriate.
•    Review and evaluate plan.

Chaplaincy Role:

•    Visit home, if appropriate.
•    Assist with prayer services.
•    Make contact with local clergy.
•    Be available as personal and spiritual support to staff.

•    Provide follow-up support to family in conjunction with home school community liaison.
•    Work in partnership with religious education team.
•    Review and evaluate plan.

Home school liaison Role:

•    Coordinate contact with families (following first contact by principal).
•    Consult with family around involvement of school in e.g. funeral service.
•    Assist with all communication dealing with parents of any student affected by critical incident.

•    Provide ongoing support to bereaved family.
•    Involve family in school liturgies/ memories services as appropriate.
•    Offer to link family with community support groups.
•    Review and evaluate plan.

Action Plan
Short term actions (day 1)

Immediate contact with family/ families.
Consult with the families regarding appropriate support from the school, (e.g. funeral service).
Ensure that a quiet place can be made available for students/ staff.

Rooms will be made available as follows:
•    Prayer room: The hall.
•    Individual meetings: The library/ staff room or principal’s office.

Media briefing
•    Designate a spokesperson (Leader).
•    Prepare a brief statement (team).
•    Protect the family’s privacy.
•    Gather accurate information.
•    It is important to obtain accurate information about the incident.
•    What happened, where and when?
•    What is the extent of the injuries?
•    How many are involved and what are their names?
•    Is there risk of further injury?
•    What agencies have been contacted already?

Contact appropriate agencies
•    Emergency services
•    Medical services
•    H.S.E Psychology departments/ Community care services
•    B.O.M.
•    Nep’s psychologist
•    DES/ Schools inspector.

Convene a meeting with key staff/ Critical management team (8.30 a.m.)
•    Organise staff meeting, if appropriate (9.00 a.m.)
•    Organise timetable/ routine for the day. (Adhering to the normal school routine is important, if this is possible).
•    Class teachers to take note of any absentees who might need to be contacted, list of friends etc. or any other relevant information and give to the Home school liaison person.

Arrange supervision of students

Liaise with the family regarding funeral arrangements/ memorial service
•    The Chaplain/ Principal will liaise with the family, to extend sympathy and clarify the family’s wishes regarding the school’s involvement in funeral/ memorial service.
•    Arrange a home visit by two staff representatives within 24 hours, if appropriate.
•    Have regard for different religions traditions and faiths.

Medium- Term Actions 24-72 Hours)
Preparation of students/staff members attending a funeral.
Involvement of students/staff in liturgy, if agreed by bereaved family.
Facilitation of students’/staff’ responses, e.g. Sympathy cards, flowers, book of condolences, etc.

Review the events of the first 24 hours
Reconvene key staff/critical incident management team (8.45 a.m.)
Decide arrangements for support meetings for parents/students staff.
Decide on mechanism for feedback from teachers on vunerable students.
Establish contact with absent staff and pupils.

Arrange support for individual students, groups of students, and parents, if necessary
•    Hold support/information meetings for parents/students, if necessary, in order to clarify what has happened.
•    Give any teacher who feels uncomfortable with involvement in support meetings the choice of opting out.
•    Arrange, in consultation, with outside agencies, individual or group debriefings or support meetings with parental permission.

Plan for the re-integration of students and staff (e.g. absentees, injured siblings, close relatives etc).
Home school liaison person to liaise with all of the above mentioned on their return to school.

Plan visits to injured person:
Home school liaison person + Class teacher + Principal to visit home or hospital.

Attendance and participation at funeral/ memorial service (to be decided)
•    Decide this in accordance with parents’ wishes and school management decisions and in consultation with close school friends.

School closure:
•    Request a decision on this from the school management.

Longer Term Actions
•    Monitor students for signs of continuing distress.
•    If over a prolonged period of time, a student continues to display the following, he/she may need assistance from the health board.
•    Uncharacteristic behaviour.
•    Deterioration in academic performance.
•    Physical symptoms- e.g. weight loss/gain, lack of attention to appearance, tiredness, restlessness.
•    Inappropriate emotional reactions.
•    Increased absenteeism.

Evaluate response to incident and amend Critical Incident Management plan appropriately.
•    What went well?
•    Where were the gaps?
•    What was the most/least helpful?
•    Have all necessary onward referrals to support services been made?
•    Is there any unfinished business?

Formalise the critical incident plan for the future:
Consult with NEPs Psychologist

Inform new staff/new pupils affected by critical incident where appropriate:
•    Ensure that new staff members are made aware of the school policy and procedures in this area.
•    Ensure they are aware of which pupils were affected in any recent incident and in what way.
•    When individual pupils or a class of pupils affected by an incident are transferring to a new school, it would be useful to brief the principal of the new school.

Decide on appropriate ways to deal with anniversaries:
•    Anniversaries may trigger emotional responses in students/staff and they may need additional support at this time.
•    Acknowledge the anniversary with the family and be sensitive to significant days like birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s day and Father’s day.
•    Plan a school memorial service.
•    Care of deceased person’s possessions.
•    What are the parents’ wishes?