Respond collaboratively to critical incidents

10 Nov

When a learning community is affected by a critical incident, a whole of community response is required. Learning communities that are prepared and have a critical incident management plan in place will be able to provide the best support to children and young people, staff and families. This plan will help the learning community return to normal as soon as possible after the critical incident and continue to be alert to the vulnerability of everyone in the community.

The first step in helping a child after a critical incident is understanding the types of reactions they may experience. This module explores the key principles of critical incident management at an individual and communal level. It then focuses on the response and recovery phase of critical incident management, including the importance of clarity of roles and responsibilities of all staff in the learning community. That all staff have an important role to play in supporting the emotional health and wellbeing of their community after a critical incident is a key learning of this module.

The information provided in this module focuses on the impact and response to critical incidents, but the principles are applicable to people who have experienced trauma.

D5 Module 2 Respond v06 

P1: So after a critical incident, it’s important to identify who in the learning environment is most impacted, and the levels of support everyone in the learning community might need. It might be people who are directly impacted by the event, and they need quite a different level of support than people who are on the periphery. 

P2: So what we did was firstly assess the impact of the critical incident. And I think that’s important anytime, is just to have a look at who is most affected. And that determined the way we communicated, and then how we supported them.

 P3: People will need different levels of support. That’s relevant for students or young people, as well as staff and parents or community members, because learning environments are responsible for being aware of the needs of all of those people. 

P4: To help the learning community recover after the critical incident, we did a number of things. We offered things like counselling opportunities, so, we had space available for students to go to with trained counsellors in the rooms, but also some staff members. We also had an information evening for parents, to even talk to them about how to help and support their children through what they were going through. 

P5: Some educators might be impacted themselves and services need to be really clear that if you’re impacted, you're not obliged, or you shouldn’t be made, to carry out a caring role or a support role if you're impacted yourself. 

P6: Most often than not you think you can manage it all within the school. And to be fair, that’s probably true to a point – however, when we contacted the local schools, we actually ended up tapping into their counselling services, so we had some of their counsellors who came to support ours, which was fantastic. 

P7: I suppose what we encourage for students and young people is good communication after a critical incident. That speaking about how they're feeling, looking out for their friends, encouraging their friends to seek help, and encouraging them to seek help if they need it, is really important.

 P8: Even just having a space for the students was particularly helpful. Just having that opportunity to come out of class, but really you have to be really careful about those spaces about making sure that it’s monitored and it’s not there for too long. Because again you don’t want to give permission for too long to keep withdrawing from normal everyday activities, because you want to return to that as soon as you can. 

P9: I think it’s important to also make sure people don’t see critical incidents as in just the crisis phase. That critical incident are definitely about when people are in crisis, but that there is a recovery phase where people who are at risk still need to be monitored and supported, and people need to be encouraged to move back into, kind of, normal functioning. I think what works well is when there’s a core group of people managing the response, they have really good communication amongst each other. So, those people are usually already identified before an incident occurs, and so they immediately come together and plan and then enact the plan for the school. END

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