GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — The Colorado School Safety Resource Center (CSSRC) has released new Crisis Guidelines in order to provide support to K-12 schools and institutes of higher education in the updating of their Emergency Operation Plans (EOP). The guidelines were developed after John McDonald from Jeffco Public Schools and CSSRC Director Chris Harms met and discussed the need to learn from Colorado’s past tragedies, and included input from school security experts, mental health providers, and crisis responders.

“No two crises are the same and therefore it is impossible to anticipate all situations. However, knowing what worked previously and what educators had wished were in place before an emergency, can help others before tragedy strikes,” said Director Harms.

Officially known as CSSRC Crisis Response Guidelines for K-12 Schools and Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs), the information provided include how to prepare for a crisis, what to do during and after an incident, and how to provide support after the an event occurs. A detailed description of the life cycle of a disaster is also available within the document, breaking down a tragic incident into six phases.

“Life Cycle of a Disaster” as shown in the CSSRC’s Crisis Guidelines

Phase 1, the “Pre-Disaster Phase,” is described as being characterized by fear and uncertainty stating, “disasters with no warning can cause feelings of vulnerability and lack of security; fears of future, unpredicted tragedies; and a sense of loss of control or the loss of the ability to protect yourself and your family. On the other hand, disasters with warnings can cause guilt or self-blame for failure to heed the warnings.”

The second and shortest phase is known as the “Impact Phase.” Characterized by a range of intense emotions, this phase consists of a focus on self-preservation and family protection after the initial confusion and disbelief.

Phases 3 and 4, “Heroic Phase” and “Honeymoon Phase” respectively, are also described as short in their length, but also provide the opportunity for providers and organizations to provide support to affecting parties. The “Honeymoon Phase” can lead to optimism that everything will return to normal.

As the optimism of the fourth phase turns to discouragement, the “Disillusionment Phase” sets in, leaving the community to realize the limitations of their disaster response. This phase can last months and even years, and is often extended by one or more trigger events.

The final phase, described as the “Reconstruction Phase,” is characterized as a an overall feeling of recovery. This often begins around the anniversary of the disaster and may continue for some time beyond that. Following catastrophic events, the last phase may continue for years

The packet that was put together by a working group of 28 safety and school professionals also provides details on how school systems can train staff, conduct drills, and create a sufficient communication plan, as well as a blueprint on how to handle an emergency situation when it happens.

When reached for comment on the guidelines, District 51 said their “security and safety protocols have been recognized as among the most exemplary in the United States by the National Institute of Justice. Our safety and security officers have more than a century of combined law enforcement experience and consistently maintain their skills through routine training and improve protocols based on best practices. The safety and security team is committed day and night to keeping students and staff safe through proactive and responsive methods that align with the highest guidance and standards.”

The Colorado Department of Public Safety is holding a virtual news conference that will take place on April 21 at 9:30 a.m. A panel of representatives will discuss the new guidelines, lessons learned from past events, and key takeaways for school safety. Anyone interested in viewing the discussion can do so by following this link.