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Critical Incident Policy

Critical Incident Policy


Bishop Ahern National School aims to protect the well being of its students and staff by providing a safe and nurturing environment at all times.  The Board of Management, Staff and Principal, have drawn up a critical incident management plan as one element of the school’s policies and plans.

We have established a Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT) to steer the development and implementation of the plan and are laid out as follows:-

Team Leader/Garda Liason S.Fennesssy (Principal)

Staff Liasion                                 M. Murphy (D. Principal)
Student Liasion                            Ms. L Butler
Parent Liasion                              S.Fennessy
Media Liasion                               S.Fennessy


NEP’s Psychologist                        Lucy Gannon
Pastoral Care                                 Fr. O’Hanlon

The staff and management of Bishop Ahern National School recognise a critical incident to be “an incident or sequence of events that overwhelms the normal coping mechanism of the school”. Critical incidents may involve one or more students or staff members, or members of our local community. Types of incidents might include:

  • The death of a member of the school community through accident, violence, suicide or suspected suicide or other unexpected death
  • An intrusion into the school
  • An accident involving members of the school community
  • An accident/tragedy in the wider community
  • Serious damage to the school building through fire, flood, vandalism, etc
  • The disappearance of a member of the school community

The aim of the CIMP is to help school management and staff to react quickly and effectively in the event of an incident, to enable us to maintain a sense of control and to ensure that appropriate support is offered to students and staff. Having a good plan should also help ensure that the effects on the students and staff will be limited. It should enable us to effect a return to normality as soon as possible.

Creation of a coping supportive and caring ethos in the school
We have put systems in place to help to build resilience in both staff and students, thus preparing them to cope with a range of life events. In the case of students this will be done through the SPHE programme and for staff this will be done through discussion at staff meetings on how to cope with any possible critical incidents. These include measures to address both the physical and psychological safety of the school community.

Physical safety – refer to health and safety policy

  • Regular fire drills occur – these are carried out once per term
  • Fire exits extinguishers are regularly checked on a yearly basis
  • Main front gate is closed during school hours
  • School front entry doors locked during class time – bell entry system in place
  • Each classroom has its own emergency exit and set of toilets
  • Text a parent is now in operation
  • Rules of the playground – refer to code of behaviour policy



Medical emergencies will be dealt with as follows:

  • Contact Emergency Services
  • Contact Parent(s)/Guardian(s)
  • Administer First Aid if necessary
  • Two members of staff at all times
  • Two members of staff to accompany child in ambulance to hospital and to remain with the child until parent(s)/guardian(s) arrive.


Psychological safety
The management and staff of Bishop Ahern National School aim to use available programmes and resources to address the personal and social development of students, to enhance a sense of safety and security in the school and to provide opportunities for reflection and discussion.

Outlined below are specific examples for our school:

  • Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is integrated into the work of the school. It is addressed in the curriculum by addressing issues such as grief and loss (as the need arises); communication skills; stress and anger management; resilience; conflict management; problem solving; help-seeking; bullying; decision making and prevention of alcohol and drug misuse. Stay Safe is taught.
  • Staff are made aware of the need for sensitivity towards specific children who have suffered bereavement or loss.
  • Staff have access to training for their role in SPHE – recent staff development and input from outside agencies such as N.E.P.S. psychologist Lucy Gannon.
  • Staff are familiar with the Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures and details of how to proceed with suspicions or disclosures
  • Books and resources on difficulties affecting the primary school student are available in the school staffroom on a range of areas
  • The school has developed links with a range of external agencies – HSE, fire safety officer, local gardaí
  • Inputs to students by external providers are carefully considered in the light of criteria about student safety, the appropriateness of the content, and the expertise of the providers.
  • The school has a clear policy on bullying and deals with bullying in accordance with this policy
  • Students who are identified as being at risk are referred to the designated staff member (class teacher), concerns are explored and the appropriate level of assistance and support is provided. Parents are informed, and where appropriate, a referral is made to an appropriate agency
  • Staff are informed about how to access support for themselves. (through the employee assistance scheme: phone 1800 411 057

Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT)
A CIMT has been established in line with best practice. The members of the team were selected on a voluntary basis and will retain their roles for 3 school years. The members of the team will meet annually to review and update the policy and plan. Each member of the team has a dedicated critical incident folder. This contains a copy of the policy and plan and materials particular to their role, to be used in the event of an incident.

The following outlines the roles of the various members of the CIMT.

Team leader
• Alerts the team members to the crisis and convenes a meeting
• Coordinates the tasks of the team
• Liaises with the Board of Management; DES; NEPS
• Liaises with the bereaved family
It is important to consider who will take the lead in the absence of the team leader.
Garda liaison
(This may be seen as part of the team leader’s role)
• Liaises with the Gárdaí
• Ensures that information about deaths or other developments is checked out for accuracy before being shared
Staff liaison
• Leads briefing meetings for staff on the facts as known, gives staff members an opportunity to express their feelings and ask questions, outlines the routine for the day
• Advises staff on the procedures for identification of vulnerable students
• Provides materials for staff (from their critical incident folder)
• Keeps staff updated as the day progresses
• Is alert to vulnerable staff members and makes contact with them individually
• Advises them of the availability of the EAS and gives them the contact number.
Student liaison
• Alerts other staff to vulnerable students (appropriately)
• Provides materials for students (from their critical incident folder)
• Keeps records of students seen by external agency staff
• Looks after setting up and supervision of ‘quiet’ room where agreed
Community/agency liaison
• Maintains up to date lists of contact numbers of
– Key parents, such as members of the Parents Council
– Emergency support services and other external contacts and resources
• Liaises with agencies in the community for support and onward referral
• Is alert to the need to check credentials of individuals offering support
• Coordinates the involvement of these agencies
• Updates team members on the involvement of external agencies
Parent liaison
• Visits the bereaved family with the team leader
• Arranges parent meetings, if held
• May facilitate such meetings, and manage ‘questions and answers’
• Manages the ‘consent’ issues in accordance with agreed school policy
• Ensures that sample letters are typed up, on the school’s system and ready for adaptation
• Sets up room for meetings with parents
• Maintains a record of parents seen
• Meets with individual parents
• Provides appropriate materials for parents (from their critical incident folder)
Media liaison
• In advance of an incident, will consider issues that may arise and how they might be responded to (e.g. students being interviewed, photographers on the premises, etc)
• In the event of an incident, will liaise where necessary with the SEC; relevant teacher unions etc.
• Will draw up a press statement, give media briefings and interviews (as agreed by school management)
• Maintenance of up to date telephone numbers of
– Parents or guardians
– Teachers
– Emergency services
• Takes telephone calls and notes those that need to be responded to
• Ensures that templates are on the schools system in advance and ready for adaptation
• Prepares and sends out letters, emails and faxes
• Photocopies materials needed
• Maintains records

Record keeping
In the event of an incident each member of the team will keep records of phone calls made and received, letters sent and received, meetings held, persons met, interventions used, material used etc.
Marie Murphy will have a key role in receiving and logging telephone calls, sending letters, photocopying materials, etc.

Confidentiality and good name considerations
The management and staff of Bishop Ahern National School have a responsibility to protect the privacy and good name of the people involved in any incident and will be sensitive to the consequences of any public statements. The members of the school staff will bear this in mind, and will seek to ensure that students do so also. For instance, the term ‘suicide’ will not be used unless there is solid information that death was due to suicide, and that the family involved consents to its use. The phrases ‘tragic death’ or ‘sudden death’ may be used instead. Similarly, the word ‘murder’ should not be used until it is legally established that a murder was committed. The term ‘violent death’ may be used instead.

Critical incident rooms
In the event of a critical incident, the following rooms will generally be used:
Staff room will be the main room used to meet the staff
Classroom/Resource room 6 for meetings with students
Halla  for parents
Principal’s office/staff room may be used for individual sessions with students
Principal’s office/support rooms for other visitors


Consultation and communication regarding the plan
All staff were consulted and their views canvassed in the preparation of this policy and plan.
Parent representatives were also consulted and asked for their comments.
Our school’s final policy and plan in relation to responding to critical incidents has been presented to all staff.
Each member of the critical incident team has a personal copy of the plan.
All new and temporary staff will be informed of the details of the plan by the deputy principal Marie Murphy .
The plan will be updated/reviewed annually by the staff.