Critical Incident Management Policy

Critical Incident Management Policy – Printable Version

Elphin Community College 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, through the school principal, has drawn up a Critical Incident Management Plan as one element of the school’s policies and plans. The school has taken a number of steps to create a supportive and caring ethos in the school.

The CIMT (Critical Incident Management Team) have consulted resource documents available to schools on and including:

  • Responding to Critical Incidents Guidelines and Resources for Schools (NEPS 2016)
  • Suicide Prevention in the Community – A Practical Guide (HSE 2011)
  • Well-Being in Post-Primary Schools Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention (DES, DOH, HSE 2013)

Review and Research

The CIMT have consulted resource documents available to schools on and including:

  • Responding to Critical Incidents Guidelines and Resources for Schools

(NEPS 201 6)

  • Suicide Prevention in Schools: Best Practice Guidelines (IAS, National Suicide Review Group (2002)
  • Suicide Prevention in the Community – A Practical Guide (HSE 2011)
  • Well-Being in Post-Primary Schools Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention (DES, DOH, HSE 2013)
  • Well-Being in Primary Schools – Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion

(DES, DOH, HSE 2015)

Definition of Critical Incident

The staff and management of Elphin Community College recognize 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
  • A physical attack on a staff member or student
  • 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

This list is not exhaustive and may include any other situation which might be deemed appropriate.


The aim of the Critical Incident Management Plan 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. These include measures to address both the physical and psychological safety of the school community.

Physical safety

The management and staff of Elphin Community College use current policies and procedures to ensure the physical safety of its students. These include:

  1. Safeguarding statement
  2. Risk assessments
  3. Health and Safety Policy
  4. Evacuation plan formulated
  5. Regular fire drills occur
  6. Fire exits and extinguishers are regularly checked
  7. Supervision
  8. School Reopening Plan relating to Covid-19


Psychological safety

The management and staff of Elphin Community College 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.

  • 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; communication skills; stress and anger management; resilience; conflict management; problem solving; help-seeking; bullying; decision making and prevention of alcohol and drug misuse. Promotion of mental health is an integral part of this provision
  • Staff have access to training for their role in SPHE
  • 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 post primary school student are available
  • Information is provided on mental health in general and such specific areas as signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Staff are informed in the area of suicide awareness and some will be trained in interventions for suicidal students (2018)
  • The school has developed links with a range of external agencies such as Jigsaw, CAMHS, our Local Medical Centre, Local Child Psychologist, Brothers of Charity, Rainbows to name but a few.
  • 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. See DES Circulars 0022/2010 (Primary) or 0023/2010 (Post-Primary)
  • The school has a clear policy on bullying and deals with bullying in accordance with this policy
  • There is a care system in place in the school using the “Continuum of Support” approach which is outlined in the NEPS documents published on 2007 for primary schools and 2010 for post primary schools. See also Student Support Teams in Post Primary Schools (2014). These documents are available on
  • Students who are identified as being at risk are referred to the designated staff member (e.g. Guidance Counsellor, Year Head or Support 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.
  • The Principal, the Deputy Principal, Year Heads and the Guidance Counsellor meet weekly as part of a care team.
  • Staff are informed about how to access support for themselves and notices are on display in the staffroom.

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. The members of the team will meet annually to review and update the policy and plan. The CIMT consists of the following personnel: 

  • Principal
  • Deputy Principal
  • Four members of staff, to include, if/when available, Counsellor

 The Critical Incident Management Team may co-opt other members of staff to assist them, should they deem it necessary.

 The Principal will act as Team Leader, or in their absence, the Deputy Principal.

 Each member of the team has a dedicated critical incident folder on their OneDrive platform. This contains a copy of the policy and plan and materials particular to their role, to be used in the event of an incident.

Team leader: Siobhan Cullen


  • 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; SEC
  • Liaises with the bereaved family

(Note – It is important to consider who will take the lead in the absence of the team leader)

Garda liaison Siobhàn Cullen

  • Liaises with the Gardaí
  • Ensures that information about deaths or other developments is checked out for accuracy before being shared

Staff liaison Paul Noone


  • 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 Grainne Brehony and Siobhàn Cullen


  • At post-primary level, may co-ordinate information from tutors and year heads about students they are concerned about
  • Alerts other staff to vulnerable students (appropriately)
  • Provides materials for students (from their critical incident folder)
  • Maintains student contact records.
  • Looks after setting up and supervision of ‘quiet’ room where agreed

Community/Agency Liaison  Siobhàn Cullen and Paul Noone


  • 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
  • Reminds agency staff to wear name badges
  • Updates team members on the involvement of external agencies

Parent liaison Siobhàn Cullen and Grainne Brehony


  • 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 Siobhàn Cullen and Paul Noone


  • 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)


Administrator  Siobhàn Cullen and Bernadette McLoughlin


  • 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 school system in advance and ready for adaptation
  • Prepares and sends out letters, emails and texts
  • Photocopies materials needed
  • Maintains records

Record keeping Siobhàn Cullen

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.

Ms. Bernadette McLoughlin will have a key role in receiving and logging telephone calls, sending letters, photocopying materials, etc.

Outside School Term or at Weekend

As well as convening a meeting of the CIMT, staff will be informed through web-messaging. The school will be made available to both staff and students as a neutral and safe venue.


Confidentiality and good name considerations

Management and staff of Elphin Community College have a responsibility to protect the privacy and good name of people involved in any incident and will be sensitive to the consequences of public statements. Members of school staff will bear this in mind, and seek to ensure that students do so also, e.g. 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 RoomsIn the event of a critical incident, the following rooms are designated for the indicated purposes
Room Name:Designated Purpose:
Staff RoomMain room for meeting staff
Room 10Meetings with students
Deputy Principal’s OfficeMeetings with parents
Deputy Principal’s OfficeMeetings with media
C.G. OfficeIndividual sessions with students
Deputy Principal’s OfficeMeetings with other visitors

Consultation and communication regarding the plan

All staff were consulted and their views canvassed in the preparation of this policy and plan. Students and parent/guardian 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 Ms. Siobhàn Cullen. The plan will be updated annually.

Critical Incident Management Team
Team leader: Siobhàn Cullen 0719635031
Garda liaison Siobhàn Cullen 0719635031
Staff liaison Paul Noone 0719635031
Student liaison Grainne Brehony and Siobhàn Cullen 0719635031
Community liaison Paul Noone and Siobhàn Cullen 0719635031
Parent liaison Grainne Brehony and Siobhàn Cullen 0719635031
Media liaison Paul Noone and Siobhàn Cullen 0719635031
Administrator Siobhàn Cullen 0719635031

Short Term Actions – Day 1

Task Name
Gather accurate informationSiobhàn Cullen
Who, what, when, where?Siobhàn Cullen
Convene a CIMT meeting – specify time and place clearly Siobhàn Cullen
Contact external agenciesSiobhàn Cullen
Arrange supervision for studentsSiobhàn Cullen
Hold staff meetingAll staff
Agree schedule for the daySiobhàn Cullen
Inform students – (close friends and students with learning difficulties may need to be told separately)Grainne Brehony and Siobhàn Cullen
Compile a list of vulnerable studentsGrainne Brehony and Siobhàn Cullen
Prepare and agree media statement and deal with mediaPaul Noone and Siobhàn Cullen
Inform parentsGrainne Brehony and Siobhàn Cullen
Hold end of day staff briefing Siobhàn Cullen

Medium Term Actions – (Day 2 and Following Days)

Convene a CIMT meeting to review the events of day 1Team leader
Meet external agenciesGrainne Brehony and Siobhàn Cullen
Meet whole staffSiobhàn Cullen
Arrange support for students, staff, parentsGrainne Brehony and Siobhàn Cullen
Visit the injuredGrainne Brehony and Siobhàn Cullen
Liaise with bereaved family regarding funeral arrangements Grainne Brehony and Siobhàn Cullen
Agree on attendance and participation at funeral serviceSiobhàn Cullen
Make decisions about school closureBOM

Follow-up: Beyond 72 Hours

Monitor students for signs of continuing distressClass teachers
Liaise with agencies regarding referralsSiobhàn Cullen
Plan for return of bereaved student(s) Grainne Brehony and Siobhàn Cullen
Plan for giving of ‘memory box’ to bereaved familyGrainne Brehony and Siobhàn Cullen
Decide on memorials and anniversariesBOM/Staff, parents and students
Review response to incident and amend planStaff/BOM

Garda071/9635002, 071/9664620, 094/9621630
Hospital0906626200, 0719171111
Fire Brigade999 / 112
Local GPs0719635084
Community Care Team0906627090
Child and Family Centre0719635084, 0719663000
Child and Family Mental Health Service (CAMHS) 0906627090
School InspectorJason Kelly
NEPS Psychologist0906628529
DES 0906483600
State Exams Commission0906442700
Employee Assistance Service1800 411 057