Emergency Action Plans for Athletic Departments

Emergency Action Plans for Athletic Departments

There are many ways to define an emergency situation.

From athlete injury to natural disaster to an active shooter situation, athletic directors and coaches must prepare themselves and students for how to react when something goes wrong.

To do so, an EAP, or emergency action plan, is needed. The plan should be similar to those adopted by schools to handle emergency situations. There are, however, some additions athletic departments need to make, including crafting plans to handle emergency maintenance problems, such as a broken backboard during a basketball game, or athlete injury.

There are also extra layers that need to be added to an athletic department’s EAP.

Because games and practices are held after hours, the same school resources are not in place, which means athletic directors may need additional staff or students may need to take on a bigger role should something go wrong.

Plans for how to handle these situations on other campuses need to be put in place, as well. During away games, students and staff must know how to protect themselves and each other.

A few key points include teaching staff and students where defibrillation machines are located, how to open safety gates for emergency vehicles to enter the campus, planned escape routes, hiding places for a lockdown situation, how to handle maintenance repair during a game and who is in charge of first aid.

A quality action plan follows California Interscholastic Federation guidelines, including identifying each person’s role during an emergency.

“As a coach or an athletic director I’m going to be directing people,” says Eric Wood, Athletic Director at Bishop Montgomery Knights.

Eric stresses the importance of handing out specific instructions. Never yell, “Call 911!” into a crowd. Instead, point to a specific person and address them by name or a physical identifier. Give clear directions to one person.

A situation that is handled properly can have better end results and prior planning is key.

“Being prepared means you can be proactive,” Eric says.

In a perfect world, teams would be practicing for emergency situations beforehand, although that’ not always practical.

What is practical is coaches spending a little time each week teaching the basics. Students should know their own campus: where to find first aid kits and where to hide if needed. On other campuses, athletic directors and coaches should be passing down pertinent information before travel.

It’s easy to call ahead to a school and learn where defibrillation machines are kept on campus, where entrance gates are located for emergency vehicles and what the campus protocol is for lockdowns and evacuations.

Eric says he makes this part of his job and either he or a coach will get the details needed to craft an emergency plan for that school prior to the visit.

It is then a coach’s job to pass information down to athletes, instructing them of the protocol for emergency. Students should always know which adult to turn to during an emergency situation for instruction.

If your school doesn’t already have an EAP, or if the EAP is lacking, look to other schools for inspiration. If you read other athletic departments’ action plans it can spark new ideas that can then be adopted into your own EAP. Don’t be afraid to ask another athletic department to share its action plan with you. Compare with other coaches and athletic directors to ensure you have crafted a thorough plan for your school. When in doubt, use the CIF guidelines as an outline for your own plan.

“It’s easier to be proactive than reactive,” Eric says.