Students and staff around Australia have had a horrifying start to the new school year with an unprecedented amount of hoax bomb threats causing disruption and distress.
This monthly School Crises Media Spotlight will provide a snapshot of things that have happened in the media, how they were handled and where they could be handled better according to schools issues and crises expert, Sam Elam, managing director of Media Manoeuvres.
Media Source: Gold Coast Bulletin:
Gold Coast parents angry over bomb scare silence at schools
February 3, 2016
“I don’t know where they get off thinking parents don’t have a right to know, I get they don’t want chaos but we should still be notified if something’s going on” … Read full article
Sam’s Expert Commentary:
Keebra Park was on the front foot with its Facebook post offering reassurance to the school community. They appeared under control and on top of their emergency response procedures. It was well done. This could have been enhanced by sending out text messages to the school community.
Media Source: Sydney Morning Herald:
Police operations at Sydney Schools after threats
February 1, 2016
Hoax call made at 1.15pm
“Parents of students at Cheltenham Girls High School reportedly received a text message around 3pm informing them that police had attended the school and deemed it “all clear and safe”.
“We don’t have a time frame at this stage, we are just in lockdown,” a Hunters Hill High School staff member said. She said she was not yet able to advise when parents would be able to pick up their children”… Read more
Sam’s Expert Commentary:
Media will always need pictures and footage for news reports so get on the front foot and let the media know you are evacuating the school on to the school oval etc. Orderly lockdowns can be a school’s PR opportunity to showcase how prepared it is to deal with emergencies to protect children and in exemplary communication with parents.
February 2016 Summary
“The crisis has brought to light the need for schools to test and strengthen their crisis strategies, both in emergency response and communications with the Education Department saying “it was a ‘clarion call’ for schools to reassess their emergency plans” … Read more
There was criticism amongst families of students about the lack of communication as the crisis unfolded. Many parents were unaware that their student’s school was evacuated or even under threat.