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Critical Incident Management Plan



A modern school, by its very nature, produces many crises in the course of a school year. Thankfully, most of these are minor and can be dealt with adequately by the school staff following School Policies and Structures. However, occasionally, an incident occurs, which is termed “critical” and which cannot be dealt with in the normal way. All partners in the school community – staff, students, parents and members of the wider community, are likely to be seriously affected by it. Such a crisis must be managed in order to provide a sense of continuity and order, while at the same time providing maximum care for all affected parties. This policy offers guidelines – all of which might or might not be followed, as each different crisis will demand a different set of responses.


For the purpose of this document, a “critical incident” is defined as a serious event or series of events which overwhelm the normal coping mechanisms of the school and which are outside the normal scope of the school’s pastoral/social/psychological system.

There is no set list of what might be termed a “critical incident” but any list would include the following:

The sudden death of a member of the school community – student or staff member.

Suicide of a member of the school community.

A serious accident or sudden serious illness involving a member of the school community.

The disappearance of a member of the school community.

A tragic accident to a member of the wider community, which might seriously affect students or staff.

The tragic, sudden death of a parent/guardian.

Serious/Fatal accident during a school trip.

Serious damage to the school buildings through fire, flood, vandalism, etc.

Serious emergency on the school premises.

Serious violence or threat of violence to a member of the school community, either within or outside the school.

Intrusion into the school.

Mental Breakdown of Student / Staff member.

Sexual Abuse of student at home or elsewhere.
Management of Incident:

In order that the school is in a position to respond effectively to any crisis, a Crisis Management Team should be formed.

Moyne College endeavours to train members of staff in counselling skills. The “trained” staff will be a core element of the Crisis Team.
NB: Staff to be trained need to have the right personal qualities and the “want” to become trained for the common good of the student/s.

Our interim Critical Incident Management Team is as follows:
Principal – Ms Siobhan Towey (086) 1727514
Deputy Principal – Mr. Aiden McLoughlin (087) 6282167
H.S.C.L Co-Ordinator – Ms Maura Flynn (087) 9694771
Guidance Counsellor -Ms Mairead Higgins (086) 0872724
School Secretary – Carmel Ferguson (086) 8078923
Year Head appropriate to the Year that the student is in
SNA if one is appointed to student
Chairperson of the B.O.M. – Mr Johnny O’Malley (087) 2865577
School Chaplain – Rev. Tom Doherty (096) 71355
N.E.P.S. Psychologist – Ms. Caitriona Whelan (087) 2025079
NB: Contact/Mobile Numbers to be listed in final document, retained in school.

It is requested that all members make themselves available to share the workload. However, duties should be allocated on a voluntary basis as not all staff members might wish to be directly involved in grief management. Such members might assist in other ways.

With regards to drawing up a timetable, in the event of the school being closed, it is important that the students are aware that they can come in to the school to talk to personnel, if they wish. Sometimes, this can be seen as a benefit for some students / staff.

Support Programmes:
We should have some Support Programme designed – perhaps with the help of the Psychologist – so that they are already in place prior to an incident.

Informing Students:
It must be made clear that all staff members inform the students of the same report and that no individual member of staff gives his/her own version.

Responsibility of the Principal / Deputy Principal

Procedures to be followed immediately following a crisis.

Hearing the news
Once a critical incident comes to the attention of a member of the school community, he/she should, where possible and practical, inform the Senior Management of the school immediately. However, where it is apparent that an emergency situation exists, it may be necessary to call one or more of the emergency services in the first instance.

Establish the facts
Before taking any action, it is crucial to establish the facts. This may involve contacting Gardai, Hospital, Parents/Guardians, etc.

Senior Management to convene meeting of Critical Incident Team
Once the facts of a crisis have been established, a meeting of all members of the Critical Incident Team should be called immediately. The Team will need to agree an immediate plan of action, which might include one or more of the following:

Informing staff and students – where feasible, all staff should be informed first.
Contacting parents/guardians.
Visiting families most intimately affected by the crisis.
Organising School Mass.
Liasing with relevant support groups – Counsellors, Health Boards, NEPS, DES, etc..

Agreeing a factual and sensitive statement for the Press. Depending on the nature of the crisis, this statement might dispel rumours, while at the same time not cause any further distress for the family or invade their privacy.

Assigning tasks to members of the Critical Incident Team.

Appointing person/s to handle all telephone inquiries and/or deal with the Press/Radio/TV interviews.

Organising facilities for Counsellors, if necessary.

Organising a timetable for the school. Where possible, normal timetables and routines should be followed while ensuring that all those most affected are treated with sensitivity.

Where a funeral is involved, the School Management should liase with the bereaved family before deciding on any involvement. It cannot automatically be assumed that the family will be happy with what the school decides. Usually the family appreciates school involvement, but still must be asked first.
Organise a Staff Meeting. Where students are going to be in the school, it is critical that all areas are supervised, so it is vital that all staff members are involved in the meeting.
Staff Meeting:

All staff should be invited to this meeting. The topics covered might include the following:

A sensitive account of the facts, as known, having regard for the privacy of those involved. Information needs to be provided on a “need to know” basis.

The views and feelings of the staff.

How, by whom and in what setting, students and other members of the school community should be informed of the incident.

Outline of the timetable that the Critical Incident Team has drawn up for responding to the crisis. The timetable may be modified at this meeting if necessary.

Details of the outside agencies contacted.

Details of the support programme to be put in place.

Procedure for identifying vulnerable students.

Informing Students:

In preparing to inform the students, the following matters should be taken into account:

It might be helpful to use a common agreed statement. This would help the person informing the students by highlighting that words like suicide should NEVER be used. Each person would then have his/her way of relaying the message to the group of students involved.

If at all possible, students should be told at the same time, in groups not larger than the Year Groups.

The ideal person to inform the group is someone who knows them well and who has their trust, e.g., the Year Head. However, where a staff member is uncomfortable undertaking this task, their views should be respected and be allowed to opt out readily.

Clear unambiguous information (the facts as they are known as per agreed statement) will reduce the spread of rumour. No opinions or hearsay.

The information must be conveyed in a sensitive manner. Care must be taken to see if there is anybody in the group close to the injured party, or of a particularly sensitive nature who might need to be kept under close observation.

Those informing the students, should spend reasonable time with the students and allow them react to the news.

Where news of a death of a member of the school community is being communicated to students, many find it difficult to cope. They should be informed that support will be provided by Staff, Chaplain, Counsellors, NEPS Psychologists, etc.. This support will be available to students as long as is necessary.

Where a definite plan of action has been agreed, it should be given to the students. If it is still being prepared, they should be told when they might expect it.

In the case of a suspected suicide, great care should be taken not to use the term “suicide”, until it has been established categorically that the death was as a result of suicide. Even then, it is important to respect the privacy and sensitivity of the family and friends and it should never be used.

Where an accident has occurred on a school activity/trip:

Different situations will call for different responses, but the following points should be considered:

The preparation of an agreed statement by all the staff in charge of the activity. This will ensure that the same message gets to the relatives of all the injured parties.

If a number of students are injured, the message should be conveyed to each set of relatives as near to the same time as possible.

Those contacted should be offered as much practical help as possible – transport, telephone numbers, contact persons, etc..

It should be checked, whether relatives who have just received bad news, are on their own or need support

Ideally, those most affected, should be spoken to face to face rather than by telephone only, so that it is clear that the message is fully understood.

Liasing with the Press:

In the event of a critical incident happening, School Management should be prepared to deal with enquiries from the media. It is recommended that one person be nominated as “Press Officer” to speak to Reporters and give Radio/TV Interviews. In preparing a Press Statement, the following issues need to be considered:

Priority should be given to the sensitivities and needs of those affected directly by the incident.

The names, addresses or telephone numbers of those affected should NOT be given to the media. It would be better if this came from the Gardai or parents.

Statements should be confined to the facts, as known and conjecture.

Give some thought, in advance, to the kinds of questions the media are likely to ask. Where possible and practical, seek advice from someone who has experience in dealing with the media.

Understand that the media are not necessarily the enemy. Reporters have a job to do and the public is entitled to information that neither impinges on the privacy of those affected by the incident not exacerbates the incident.

Do not feel you have to answer a question from a Reporter simply because it was asked. Where there is no good reason for not answering a question, the Reporter should be told politely that you do not wish to answer it.

Only the officially appointed “Press Officer” should be allowed to talk to the Press with the ”prepared statement

A Press Statement should be simple and brief. It should, where appropriate, express the sorrow of the entire school community at the sudden death of one of their members and it should extend sympathy to the bereaved family. Again, other than where there is a clear need to do otherwise, the statement should be adhered to . . . . and not elaborated on . . . . in all communications with the media and it should be familiar to every member of the school staff.

Others to be informed:

The following will need to be informed of the incident in due course:

The CEO of the Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim Education and Training Board.

Parent Body.
As soon as is practical, all parents need to be informed, in writing, of all relevant details of the incident.
The correspondence to parents should also provide:
information on how the school proposes to respond to the incident in the short, medium and long term.
the supports that will be put in place.
how the parents might assist their own children and other people’s children recover from any trauma they have suffered.

3. School Insurers. (This might be the E.T.B’s job)


It is important to review this policy in light of experience. Also, keep in touch with other schools and professionals, to keep up to date with accepted best practice.


It is not sufficient to plan merely to respond to crises when they occur. Rather, it is essential that all members of the school community be provided, on an ongoing basis, with the skills, knowledge and sensitivity to prevent the occurrence of crises. This can be done through the provision of In-service for teachers and other support staff, Information Meetings for parents and a effective Pastoral/Support Structure within the school.

Critical Incident De-briefing:

As soon as is practicable after the core elements of the crisis have ended, the management will provide everybody affected by the incident with an opportunity to take part in a Critical Incident De-briefing Programme. Furthermore, the management will try to persuade anybody who is reticent about taking part, the advantages of taking part.


Principal’s Checklist:

Take time to let the news sink in . . . . . . check the facts.

Call a meeting of the Critical Incident Team.

Get together as much factual information as possible.

Contact Health Board Crisis Service.

Contact VEC.

Contact NEPS.
Inform staff what has happened.

Discuss school routine for the first day with the staff.

Identify particular students who need to be told individually, e.g., close friends.

Inform students that a student has died tragically and explain that everyone will find it hard to cope with this news. Explain the routine for the day, the supports and back-up for students.

Make contact with the family of the deceased.

Decide on any other arrangements for the day – e.g., Mass, Prayers, etc.

Check in with staff, in the Staff Room, during the day to keep up to date with what is happening in the school.

Be aware of particular teachers who might be particularly distressed – they may have had a recent bereavement themselves or had a previous experience of suicide.

Encourage staff to come to you during the day to tell you how things are going. Remind staff to be compassionate and only talk of the facts, not speculation.

Find details of the funeral and communicate this to the staff and students.

At the end of the Day One, review the days events and plan for Day Two.

Make staff aware of vulnerable students and supports available.

Make preparations for dealing with the press.

In time, think of how someone can be remembered, e.g., planting a tree, etc..

Signed: ____________________________________ Date: ____________________

Appendix 1
Sample of Letter to Parents/Guardians in the event of a Tragedy


Dear Parents/Guardians,

The school has experienced the *sudden death/accidental injury resulting in death* of one of our students, *name *.

This tragedy has caused much distress/sadness to both students and staff members. We have been in contact with the Psychological Services of the Department of Education & Skills and have Counsellors in place.

It is possible that your child may have some feelings that he/she may like to discuss with you. You can help your child by taking time to listen and encourage him/her to express his/her feelings. It is important to give truthful information that is appropriate to his/her age.

If you would like any advice or assistance please do not hesitate to contact the school.

Yours sincerely,

Siobhan Towey


Sample of PRESS RELEASE in the event of a Tragedy

Moyne College has experienced *the sudden death / accidental injury resulting in death* of one of our students, *name*.

*Brief details of the incident and in the event of a death, some positive remembrances of the person lost* -

This tragedy has caused much distress / sadness to both our students and staff members. We have been in contact with the Psychological Services of the Department of Education & Skills and have Counsellors in place.

Siobhan Towey