K-12 Schools

Administrators, Support Personnel, and Teacher Roles in Disaster Response and RecoveryImage - schools

Elsewhere we have prepared detailed information on children’s disaster response and recovery and discussed the ways in which schools can play a central role in facilitating the recovery journeys of students and their families, with specific recommendations for teachers and administrators. Following are some additional recommendations for various school-based groups in their disaster-related roles. 


  • Get input from a crisis team before making decisions
  • Conduct faculty meetings
  • Verify facts and tell the truth
  • Be visible, available, and approachable
  • Don’t be afraid to show emotion
  • Empower staff and students
  • Accept outside help when needed
  • Keep everyone updated
  • Help the staff understand that the crisis becomes the curriculum, and relax school expectations about such things as homework and dress codes.

Support Personnel:

  • Give permission for a range of emotions
  • Help faculty first
  • Recognize the individual crisis history of each person and the role it may play in each individual’s reaction to the disaster
  • Inform and educate parents
  • Locate additional help, and keep record of who was seen and any concerns
  • Resist testing/placement immediately after a disaster or relocation, because academic regression is expected.


  • Emphasize coping strategies
  • Be patient regarding academic performance, as trauma affects learning ability
  • Help students remember positives about deceased friends and loved ones
  • Help students communicate with victims’ families or with their
  • Prepare students for funerals and what is to come regarding the rebuilding of their communities.

This material is excerpted and modified from the following sources:

»Brock, S., Lazarus, P., & Jimerson, S. (2002). “Best practices in school crisis prevention and intervention.” »Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.

»La Greca, A. (2005). “After the storm: Hurricane season 2005,” available on line at www.7-Dippity.com.

»Poland, S. (1999). Coping with Crisis: Lessons for Schools and Communities. Sopris West. (pdf)

Kansas State University provides this 3 page article titled Children May Experience Long Term Effects of Disaster which explores general events that may bring about fear for children, tips for parents, tips for teachers and defines types of violence in the household.

Web Links:

This 3-page article provided by SAMHSA titled Tips for Supporting Children During Times of War: A Guide for Teachers explores how to talk to children about war and how to help children access their abilities to cope.

This site provides mental health resources for teenagers and their teachers.

A fact sheet on the impact of terrorism and disasters on children from the American Psychological Association

The National Institute for Mental Health offers resources regarding traumatic events and children and adolescents

The National Association of School Psychologists offers school safety and crisis resources, including information on crisis teams in schools

The Center for Health and Healthcare in Schools offers various mental health resources for teachers, parents, and students

Ready.gov offers a site specifically designed to help kids understand disaster preparedness

Sesame Street’s affiliated organization, Sesame Workshop, offers a wealth of emotional health resources for children and their parents