Having a “Game Plan” for Safety at Athletic Events

The roar of the crowd, the thrill of competition, and the camaraderie among athletes – school athletic events are a cornerstone of the educational experience. As students come together to showcase their skills and sportsmanship, it's vital to ensure their safety remains the top priority.  But just this past week in the little town of Choctaw, Oklahoma, a quiet suburb just east of Oklahoma City tragedy struck as shots rang out during the third quarter of a Choctaw High School football game against Del City High School.  The shots were fired on the visitor’s side of the stadium, and authorities believe an “argument started between at least two males” led to the shooting.  One person perished and four people were injured in this horrific event. 
As we all know, due to recent events providing our kids with a safe and secure learning environment has been a challenging yet self-fulfilling task.  We must admit most of our efforts have focused on keeping our staff and students safe during the school day, so what can we do to keep our students, staff, and communities safe while they're at our district for athletic and extracurricular activities?  Effective emergency planning is the playbook that ensures everyone's well-being in the face of unexpected challenges. I want to share a few key aspects of school athletic event emergency planning and why it's an essential part of any successful event.
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Understanding the Importance of Emergency Planning

  • Anticipating the Unexpected: Sporting events are dynamic environments where unforeseen incidents can occur. From minor injuries to weather-related disruptions, having a well-thought-out, well-rehearsed plan in place ensures a quick and organized response.
  • Minimizing Risk: Effective emergency planning identifies potential risks and implements strategies to mitigate them. This proactive approach reduces the chances of accidents and injuries, contributing to a safer and more enjoyable environment.

Key Components of School Athletic Event Planning

  • Pre-Planning/Risk Assessments: Before any event, conduct a thorough assessment of potential risks. Consider factors like the venue, weather conditions, etc. This step lays the foundation for effective planning.
  • Communication: Establish clear communication channels among school administration, coaches, participants, emergency services and law enforcement. This ensures that information can be disseminated quickly and accurately in case of an emergency.
  • Evacuation Plans: Designate evacuation routes and assembly points in case of a sudden evacuation. Communicate these plans to BOTH teams and staff, and conduct practice drills to familiarize everyone with the procedures.
  • Weather Contingency Plans: As we are all too familiar with here in East Texas, outdoor events are vulnerable to weather changes. Develop protocols for extreme weather conditions like lightning, heavy rain, or extreme heat.  All LEA’s will be required to have Severe Weather Annexes for their Basic Emergency Operations Plans by October 25, 2023.
School athletic events are more than just games, they are a way of life, especially here in Texas.  They are also opportunities for our young men and women to grow, learn, and build camaraderie. However, none of this can be fully accomplished without a solid foundation of safety and community support. Emergency planning ensures that athletes, community members, and school administration can focus on the excitement of the event, confident that they are well-prepared to handle any unexpected challenges. As schools continue to foster a culture of safety, they demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of their students, leaving a lasting positive impact on their educational journey.
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This blog is just scratching the surface on Emergency Preparedness for Athletic Events.  Please join us on the following dates to learn more about how you can help prepare your district for the unpredictable:
September 18, 2023 - School Safety Administrator 101
Region 7 ESC - Darrin Peeple Darrin Peeples is an experienced professional with a strong background in law enforcement and emergency management. Holding a Bachelor's degree in Agriculture Leadership/Development and pursuing a Master's degree in Emergency Management, Darrin has a solid educational foundation. With extensive training and certifications, including Master Peace Officer, School-Based Law Enforcement Certification, and Emergency Medical Technician, Darrin is well-equipped to handle various situations. With over 14 years of state law enforcement experience and multiple responses to state-declared disasters, Darrin brings valuable expertise to the field. Additionally, his 4 years of experience in school-based law enforcement demonstrates his dedication to ensuring safety and security within educational settings.