Glossary: School Security Emergency Operations

The following is a brief glossary of basic school security emergency operations terms. While there are many terms associated with emergency preparedness, this list is intended to provide a few key definitions that all school administrators should know. Unless otherwise noted, definitions are from Federal Emergency Management Agency, SLG 101: Guide for All-Hazard Emergency Operations Planning.

  • Continuity of Operations (COOP). The ability to recover and provide services sufficient to meet the minimal needs of users of the system/agency. Source: Homeland Defense Journal 2004, p. 26.
  • Critical Incident. A critical incident is any event or situation that threatens people and/or their homes, businesses or community [school]. Source: Jones, Critical Incident, Protocol: A Public and Private Partnership, 2000, p. 4.
  • Emergency. Any occasion or instance – such as a hurricane, tornado, storm, flood, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, fire, explosion, nuclear accident or any other natural or man-made catastrophe – that warrants action to save lives and to protect property, public health and safety.
  • Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). A document that describes how people and property will be protected in disaster and disaster threat situations; details who is responsible for carrying out specific actions; identifies the personnel, equipment, facilities, supplies and other resources available for use in the disaster; and outlines how all actions will be coordinated.
  • Emergency Response Team (ERT). An interagency team, consisting of the lead representative from each federal [or State] department or agency assigned primary responsibility for an Emergency Support Function and key members of the Federal Coordinating Officer's (FCO's) staff, formed to assist the FCO in carrying out his/her coordination responsibilities. The ERT may be expanded by the FCO to include designated representatives of other federal departments and agencies as needed. The ERT usually consists of region-level staff.
  • Evacuation. Organized, phased and supervised dispersal of people from dangerous or potentially dangerous areas.
    • Spontaneous Evacuation. Residents or citizens in the threatened areas observe an emergency event or receive unofficial word of an actual or perceived threat and without receiving instructions to do so, elect to evacuate the area. Their movement, means and direction of travel is unorganized and unsupervised.
    • Voluntary Evacuation. This is a warning to persons within a designated area that a threat to life and property exists or is likely to exist in the immediate future. Individuals issued this type of warning or order are not required to evacuate, however, it would be to their advantage to do so.
    • Mandatory or Directed Evacuation. This is a warning to persons within the designated area that an imminent threat to life and property exists and individuals must evacuate in accordance with the instructions of local officials.
  • Incident Command System (ICS). A standardized organizational structure used to command, control and coordinate the use of resources and personnel that have responded to the scene of an emergency. The concepts and principals for ICS include common terminology, modular organization, integrated communication, unified command structure, consolidated action plan, manageable span of control, designated incident facilities and comprehensive resource management.
  • Recovery. The long-term activities beyond the initial crisis period and emergency response phase of disaster operations that focus on returning all systems in the community to a normal status or to reconstitute these systems to a new condition that is less vulnerable.
  • Warning. The alerting of emergency response personnel and the public to the threat of extraordinary danger and the related efforts that specific hazards may cause. A warning issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) (e.g., severe storm warning, tornado warning, tropic storm warning) for a defined area indicates that the particular type of severe weather is imminent in that area.
  • Watch. Indication by the NWS that, in a defined area, conditions are favorable for the specified type of weather (e.g., flash flood watch, severe thunderstorm watch, tornado watch, tropical storm watch).