Critical Incident Response, Consultation, and Training

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Critical Incidents

While school settings are generally considered to be safe environments – and they are – there are also those times when a traumatic event occurs. These events can produce intense fear in the students, faculty, and parents. A critical incident in a school setting can have an immediate and widespread impact in a very short period of time.

The ability to intervene effectively and rapidly, as with all types of traumatic events, can help to speed up recovery for all those who have been exposed. Here are some examples of school-based critical incidents that have occurred:
Below are Critical Incidents in an Education setting:

  • Serious injury or illness of a student
  • Serious injury or illness of a teacher
  • Serious injury or illness of support personnel
  • Serious injury or illness of a parent or other family member
  • Threat of assault/assault on a teacher or student
  • Witnessing any traumatic event
  • Attempted homicide
  • Completed suicide
  • Self harm - e.g. cutting
  • Suspected/actual child abuse
  • Active shooter
  • Power disruption
  • Hysterical/demanding parents
  • Suspected/actual sexual exploitation of a student
  • False accusation of exploitation of a student
  • Kidnapping
  • Earthquake
  • Tornado
  • Flooding
  • Civil disturbance/riots
  • Biological event
  • Radiological event
  • Incendiary event
  • Chemical event
  • Explosives event
  • Other acts of terrorism


There is an old saying, “Pain shared is pain diminished.” This is what informs almost all that I attempt to do in the world in the wake of human suffering. This is particularly true for children. I would like to offer some guidelines that many parents and educators have found helpful. When exposed to a traumatic incident, think about what has happened and notice the impact it may have on your students/children as well as yourself. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Fred Rogers says the most important thing children need to know is:

  • They can talk about anything with you.
  • We will do everything to keep them safe.
  • Share your own feelings. Encourage your kids to share how they feel and listen to them.
  • Keep it truthful but appropriate for the child’s age. They do not need to know the gory details.


Rogers also says, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.“


If there is extensive media coverage, try not to obsess about the news. Limit how much television or internet news your kids are exposed to. You are a teacher and/or a parent – not a potted plant and this is one of those times that you simply have to set age-appropriate boundaries. Your 6-year old does not need to repeatedly see the graphic images or grief-stricken children and parents 24/7.


When I was a school teacher, I found that many children can express themselves non-verbally more easily than verbally. You can help your children write or draw about their feelings. Make cards for the families or the injured. Write prayers to God. Draw pictures of how you feel.


Helping Children Cope With National Tragedies: Tips for Families, Educators and Caretakers

What Parents Can Do

Rabbi Shmuley on Oprah’s radio show: ”Children need to know, at an early age, that although there is suffering and death in the world, there is a lot more joy and health; that for every one evil person, there are a thousand very loving people.”

Art Therapy Activity: "Drawing Out Your Emotions".