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Written plans for emergency scenarios

How many schools have written plans for emergency scenarios, such as a pandemic disease?


Schools use a variety of practices and procedures to promote the safety of students, faculty, and staff. The School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) collects data on school safety and security practices by asking public school principals about their school’s use of safety and security measures,1 as well as whether their school had written procedures for responding to selected scenarios and whether it had emergency drills for students.

In 2019–20, over 90 percent of public schools had a written plan for procedures to be performed in the event of each of the following events: a natural disaster,2 an active shooter, bomb threats or incidents, and a suicide threat or incident. These percentages were higher in 2019–20 than in 2009–10 for procedures in the event of an active shooter (96 vs. 84 percent) and of a suicide threat or incident (91 vs. 75 percent).

In 2019–20, about 52 percent of public schools reported having a written plan for procedures to be performed in the event of a pandemic disease. This percentage was higher than the percentage reported in 2017–18 (46 percent).3

In 2019–20, schools were also asked whether they had drilled students during the current school year on the use of selected emergency procedures. About 98 percent of public schools had drilled students on a lockdown procedure,4 94 percent on evacuation procedures,5 and 92 percent on shelter-in-place procedures.6

Percentage of public schools with a written plan for procedures to be performed in selected scenarios: School year 2019–20

The data in this figure is described in the surrounding text.

1 For example, earthquakes or tornadoes.
2 For example, release of mustard gas, anthrax, smallpox, or radioactive materials.

NOTE: Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about crime and safety issues at the school.

1 In this indicator, data for 2013–14 were collected using the Fast Response Survey System (FRSS), while data for all other years were collected using the School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS). The 2013–14 FRSS survey was designed to allow comparisons with SSOCS data. However, the mode of the 2013–14 FRSS survey differed from that of SSOCS, which evolved over time. Specifically, all respondents to the 2013–14 survey could choose either to complete the survey on paper (and mail it back) or to complete the survey online. All respondents to SSOCS had only the option of completing a paper survey prior to 2017–18. In 2017–18, SSOCS experimented with offering an online option to some respondents. In 2019–20, SSOCS switched to using primarily an online survey instrument. The 2013–14 FRSS survey also relied on a smaller sample than SSOCS. The FRSS survey's smaller sample size and difference in survey administration may have impacted the 2013–14 results.
2 For example, earthquakes or tornadoes.
3 2017–18 is the first year in which this item was collected in SSOCS.
4 Defined for respondents as “a procedure that involves securing school buildings and grounds during incidents that pose an immediate threat of violence in or around the school.”
5 Defined for respondents as “a procedure that requires all students and staff to leave the building. The evacuation plan may encompass relocation procedures and include backup buildings to serve as emergency shelters. Evacuation also includes ‘reverse evacuation,’ a procedure for schools to return students to the building quickly if an incident occurs while students are outside.”
6 Defined for respondents as “a procedure that requires all students and staff to remain indoors because it is safer inside the building or a room than outside. Depending on the threat or hazard, students and staff may be required to move to rooms that can be sealed (such as in the event of a chemical or biological hazard) or that are without windows, or to a weather shelter (such as in the event of a tornado).”

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Safety and Security Practices at Public Schools. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved September 7, 2022, from

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