A big problem with dealing with emergencies is that, by definition, we don’t expect them to happen, and we don’t know what they will be. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb points out in his book The Black Swan, if anyone had predicted 9/11, it wouldn’t have happened, or at least, not in the same way. Airlines would have installed non-opening bullet-proof doors to the cockpit and taken various other measures to make such an assault nigh on impossible.
However, just as it’s inevitable that education technology will go wrong at some point, it’s highly likely that you, as a teacher, will experience an emergency situation at some point in your career. Hopefully it won’t be anything like a terrorist attack, but there are plenty of other kinds of emergency to choose from.
For example, ‘losing’ a pupil on a school trip, having a fire start in your room (not that far-fetched if you teach in a science lab) or having an irate parent threatening to knock you into the middle of next week.
All of these situations have a few things in common:
First, the school should have a plan for dealing with emergencies. It’s not your job to devise the plan, but it is your responsibility to familiarise yourself with it.
Secondly, bear in mind that in an emergency situation you don’t have time to sit down and carefully weigh up options. You will need to act, which is why knowing what the procedures are is crucial.
Thirdly, you will need to be able to get assistance very quickly.
Fourthly, you will need to make sure that all the pupils are accounted for.
Fifthly, after the crisis, and depending on what it is, some of your pupils may need emotional support. So you will need to know the correct steps to follow to make that happen.
As you will have surmised, the procedures themselves are, or should have been, put in place already. For example, in case of fire you and your pupils will be expected to assemble at a particular spot in the playground. However, you have several important responsibilities:
First, as has already been said, you will need to know what the procedures are, and to know them so well that if something does happen you can effectively function on autopilot.
Secondly, if technology is involved, make sure you know how to use it. For example, Groupcall Emerge has a special Fire register, and a Help button.
Thirdly, it would be a good idea to arrange with the school office or the headteacher to try out such aids before you actually need to — especially if you work in a ‘mobile’ classroom a few hundred metres away from the main school building.
With a bit of luck, you will never need to use an emergency procedure for real. But, to borrow the boy scouts’ motto, it’s good to be prepared.