A Single Voice for Emergencies

April 13, 2019

 

By Dr. David Hoch, CMAA, CIC

If your athletic program is affected by an emergency, you need to have a well-developed plan for handling it. Emergencies can be weather-related such as a hurricane, tornado, wild fires and other similar scenarios. Also, a student-athlete or coach might have been involved in an accident or there may be a problem with one of your venues such as the stadium or gymnasium. 

Regardless of the nature of the emergency, it is critical to keep the school community informed and to provide updates with any new developments. To effectively handle this responsibility, it is vitally important that your school has only one, designated person to fill the role of spokesperson.

The following are a few reasons why this requirement is important and how to go about setting up your protocols.

  1. Understand that a single voice eliminates the possibility of conflicting information being released. If there are differing reports, this could cause confusion and misunderstanding. In an emergency, you only want one ‘official’ rendering of what happened, what steps are being taken in response and when the public can expect to receive an update.

  2. Consult with your superintendent, principal, school resource officer, school nurse and seek their input as to which individual would be the best suited to serve as the spokesperson. For most district-wide situations, this would probably be the superintendent. However, go down a list of every possible emergency you might face and add the person who should serve as the voice of the district next to it.

  3. Make sure that all contingencies within the athletic department are covered. Do you have provisions for problems with buses, power outages in athletic venues and last-minute postponement of contests due to severe weather? For these athletic-related problems, the athletic administrator might serve as the spokesperson. But this has to be definitely ascertained before the emergency occurs.

  4. Post on your website and in written documents which are distributed to parents and community members how they will receive information concerning emergencies which might affect your athletic program. If you, as the athletic administrator, use Twitter to keep your community informed, this should be included in your protocols for dealing with emergencies.

  5. Try to provide a specific time when the community can expect an update. This step is important to avoid misinformation caused by families reaching out to different school personnel for the latest information. With a scheduled update, there is less tendency for the school community to reach out to different personnel and in doing this getting unofficial views and explanations.

At some point, a school will face an emergency. It would be wise, therefore, to develop your protocols for who will serve as a spokesperson now so that you are ready! Proactive planning and preparation are the keys to handling these difficult situations.

 

David Hoch retired in 2010 after a 41-year career as a high school athletic director and coach. In 2009, Dr. Hoch was honored as the Eastern District Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. He was also presented with the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award, and in 2000 he was named the Maryland State Athletic Director Association’s Athletic Director of the Year. Dr. Hoch has authored over 460 professional articles and made more than 70 presentations around the country. He welcomes comments and questions and can be reached at: davidhochretad@gmail.com

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