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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.*

* See sample statements for students

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.
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