Remote Emergency Response Team
The COVID-19 crisis requires schools to reimagine what it means to engage in collective care for students and staff experiencing grief and loss. Here are a few recommendations for schools as they move the work of their Emergency Response Team online.
Preparing your team
- School leaders convene or appoint the members of your Emergency Response Team to review, update, or design protocols and procedures.
- Seek the expertise of the guidance team and seek consultation as appropriate.
- Re-establish relationships with parents and guardians in order to:
- Exchange current contact information
- Assess impact of the crisis
- Understand issues experienced by the community
- How are families taking care of each other and their neighbors? What can you learn from their resilience?
- How could you leverage existing resources in the community?
- What kind of advocacy is appropriate?
- Analyze attendance and engagement data with regular frequency to identify red flags.
- Familiarize staff with protocols.
- Model professional self-care: Create a culture where it is ok to be upset, ask for help, and model willingness to accept help.
Responding to an Emergency
- Verify information across multiple sources (family, hospital, police).
- Convene Emergency Response Team in order to confirm roles, protocols, and communication strategy.
- Respect and strictly adhere to the requests and cultural norms of the family.
- What information can be shared with the school community?
- What are the most appropriate ways to show support?
- Use family’s preferred way of communication (eg. phone vs email, language, etc).
- Notify staff and prepare a statement to share with students.*
- Review how staff should and should not engage with students and families. (See Quick Guides).
- Notify students in small groups or Crews. Use a prepared statement that communicates the same information to all students and includes information about mental health services (See Sample Crew Lesson).
- Provide an overview or opening circle/meeting for staff so that they can ask questions or read through the grief protocol or Crew lesson prior to doing so with students.
- Pair Crew leaders or teachers with support staff wherever possible for small group meetings. Plan for extra support for Crews that had a close relationship with the person who died.
- If students work on written reflections, drawings or other activities that will be collected in Crew, remind students to include their name on the documents. If a student expresses concerning behaviors or feelings, this allows a Crew leader/counselor to follow-up.
- Bring in a team (substitutes, community providers, school counselors or social workers from neighboring schools) to provide personnel support.
- Prepare a breakout space and access to phones/remote tools, should students ask to connect with a family member or support person.
- Send a letter to other families in the school community.*
Community Care and Healing
- Honor the life as a community in a meaningful, therapeutic way regularly (eg. a symbolic moment of silence at the end of Crew).
- Avoid commemorative or memorialization events that set an inequitable precedent.
- Educate staff and students in the various ways grief shows up.
- Engage all personnel (Crew leaders, nurse, social workers, psychologists, etc) to identify which students may be at high risk for emotional distress.
- Coordinate referrals to outside services through the Emergency Response Team.
- Provide a support system for staff who may also be experiencing grief. Staff are entitled to support through their employer’s Employee Assistance Program.
- Discuss support seeking and giving, as normal and critical to healing.
- Consider how to manage any triggers or reminders (eg. desk or locker).
- Engage community in multiple modalities (phone, images, video meeting, music).
- Be aware that grief, support and care are expressed in multiple ways, often guided by family, culture and religious beliefs.
- If students write letters to the family, please be sure students write their names on the letters and a staff member reads letters before they are sent.