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Perceptions of crisis preparedness among Rhode Island public school administrators and first responders

David J Alba, Johnson & Wales University


A majority of public school districts have developed crisis preparedness plans; however, policy and procedural implementation is inconsistent across schools, districts, and states. Furthermore, while the literature regarding best practice in school safety recommends conducting a variety of drills in conjunction with first responders, there is little research literature that examines the perceptions of the personnel responsible for the planning and implementation of these types of collaborative efforts (Graham, Shirm, Liggin, Aitken, & Dick, 2006; Kano & Bourque, 2007; United States Government Accounting Office, 2007). This study explored the perceptions of 60 Rhode Island school principals, three district-level administrators, and three first responders (e.g., police, fire) in regards to school safety through addressing the following research questions: (1) Is there a significant difference in the perceptions of urban, urban ring, and suburban principals with respect to crisis preparedness training? (2) Is there a significant difference in perceptions of elementary, middle, and high school principals with respect to crisis preparedness training? (3) What are the perspectives of district leadership and first responder personnel with respect to the implementation of crisis preparedness training? Perceptions of school crisis preparedness were examined using survey data. ANOVAs indicated that suburban schools reported greater external building security than urban districts (F = 4.00, p = .024). Elementary schools reported greater external security measures than high schools (F = 3.17, p = .049); high schools reported greater internal security measures (F = 11.06, p = .001) and drills with first responders than elementary and middle schools (F = 6.09, p = .004). Themes that emerged from interviews with district-level leadership and first responders were the desire for coherence among procedures with guidance from the State level. Ambiguity of roles and responsibilities in the event of a crisis were noted in addition to gaps in communication and collaboration both within and among organizations. Implications for educators regarding a relationship between the perceptions of preparedness to respond to a school crisis that requires a coordinated, multiagency effort, and the collaborative training between school districts and their first responders were discussed.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Educational administration

Recommended Citation

Alba, David J, "Perceptions of crisis preparedness among Rhode Island public school administrators and first responders" (2011). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3450185.