Critical Incident Policy


In Piercestown National School we aim to protect the well being of our pupils and staff by providing a safe, tolerant and well catered for environment as outlined in our school mission statement.

The Board of Management through the Principal, Laura Walsh and the staff has drawn up a critical incident management plan.  They have established a Critical Incidents Management Team to steer the development and implementation of the plan.

What is a Critical Incident?

The staff and management of Piercestown National School recognise a critical incident to be “an incident or sequence of events which 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.


The aim of the Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT) is “to help school management and staff to react quickly and effectively in the event of an incident, to enable them to maintain a sense of control and to ensure that appropriate support is offered to students and staff”. Having a good plan will ensure that the effects on the students and staff will be limited. It will enable the school to return to normality as soon as possible.


Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
Death of a student who was terminally ill

Death of a staff member who was terminally ill

Death of a parent/sibling

A fire in a school not resulting in serious injury

Serious damage to school property

Sudden death of a student or staff member Incident/accident involving a number of students

Violent death

Incident with high media profile or involving a number of schools


  • The death of a member of the school community through accident, violence, suicide or suspected suicide or other unexpected death
  • An unsafe/violent intrusion into the school
  • An accident involving members of the school community
  • Serious damage to the school building through fire, flood, vandalism, etc.
  • A major accident/tragedy in the wider community

Creation of a Coping Supportive and Caring Ethos in the School

Piercestown National School has put systems in place to help to build resilience in both staff and students through our SPHE/RSE programmes, thus preparing them to cope with a wide range of life events. These include measures to address both the physical and psychological safety of the school community.

Physical Safety

In the area of physical safety the school has put in place the following:

  • Evacuation plan formulated
  • Regular fire drills occur
  • Fire exits and extinguishers are regularly checked
  • Secure doors accessed by bell only during school hours
  • General school rules under the school’s behaviour policy to ensure all pupils have a safe environment
  • Sign in/Sign out records kept

Psychological safety

The management and staff of Piercestown National School also 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)

  • Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is integrated into the work of the school. 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 drugs misuse are addressed in the SPHE curriculum. Promotion of mental health is an integral part of this provision.
  • Staff have access to training for their role in SPHE via the Wexford Education Centre should they wish to avail of it.
  • Staff are familiar with the Child Protection Guidelines and Procedures and details of how to proceed with suspicions or disclosures.
  • The school has developed links with a range of external agencies e.g. HSE/Community Care/NEPS.
  • Piercestown National School has registered to become a Health Promoting School in collaboration with the HSE.
  • Books and resources on difficulties affecting the 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.
  • 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 circular 0022/2010.
  • The school has a clear anti-bullying policy 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 document published in 2007 for primary schools. These documents are available online on
  • The school has re-applied to be a Rainbows venue helping children who have suffered bereavement and/or separation in their family lives.
  • Students who are identified as being at risk are referred to the Designated Liaison Person, the principal. Concerns are explored and the appropriate level of assistance and support is provided. Parents are informed, and where appropriate, a referral is made to the appropriate agency.
  • Staff are informed about how to access support themselves. Care Call information is located on the staff notice board and staff are informed in their Intouch Magazines.

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 and will retain their roles for at least one school year.  The members of the team will meet annually to review and update the policy and plan.  Each member of the team has access to the schools Critical Incident Management Folder which include all of the following:

  • A copy of the Critical Incident Management Team/and the Key Roles.
  • An emergency contact list/school staff contact list.
  • A copy of the duties of each team member.
  • A copy of the Board of Management members and contacts.
  • An Action Plan Template.

This contains a copy of the policy and plan and materials for their particular role, to be used in the event of an incident.

The key roles which need to be covered are as follows:

  • Team Leader
  • Garda Liaison
  • Staff Liaison
  • Student Liaison
  • Parent/Guardian Liaison
  • Community Liaison
  • Media Liaison
  • Administrator

Critical Incidents Management Team:

  • Team Leader: Laura Walsh, Principal and Teresa Corrigan, Deputy Principal
  • Garda Liaison: Laura Walsh, Principal and Teresa Corrigan, Deputy Principal
  • Staff liaison: Laura Walsh, Principal and Teresa Corrigan, Deputy Principal
  • Student Liaison/Counselling Role: Laura Walsh, Principal, Class Teacher and Trina Cooney
  • Parent/Guardian Liaison: Laura Walsh, Principal, Siobhán Berry, Secretary and Mandy Quirke, Mainstream Teacher/Postholder.
  • Community Liaison: Laura Walsh, Principal, Teresa Corrigan, Deputy Principal and Siobhán Berry, Secretary
  • Media Liaison: Laura Walsh, Principal and Teresa Corrigan, Deputy Principal
  • Administrator Liaison Role: Siobhán Berry, Secretary

The first named person has the responsibility as defined. The second named person assists and only assumes responsibility on the absence of the first named person.

Roles and Responsibilities

1. Team Leader – A person who carries authority and can make decisions during a crisis (e.g. school closure, attendance at memorial services, etc.). The Deputy Principal will assume this role in the absence of the Principal.

  • Alert the team members to the crisis and convenes a meeting
  • Co-ordinate the tasks of the team
  • Liaise with the Board of Management, DES, NEPS
  • Liaise with the bereaved family

2. Garda Liaison Role – This may be seen as part of the team leader’s role.

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

 3. Staff Liaison:

  • Lead briefing meetings for staff on facts as known, give staff members an opportunity to express their feelings and ask questions and outline the routine for the day
  • Advise staff on the procedures for identification of vulnerable students
  • Provide materials for staff (from Critical Incident folder)
  • Keep records of students seen by external agency staff
  • Is alert to vulnerable staff members and makes contact with them individually
  • Advise them of the availability of EAS and gives them the contact number (Care call)

4. Student Liaison/ Counselling Role:

  • Alert staff to vulnerable students
  • Provide materials for students (from Critical Incident folder)
  • Maintain student contact records (R1)
  • Look after setting up and supervision of ‘quiet’ room where agreed

   5. Community/Agency Liaison Role:

  • Maintain up to date lists of contact numbers – members of the Parents Association, emergency support services and other external contacts and resources
  • Liaise with agencies in the community for support and onward referral
  • Is alert to the need to check credentials of individuals offering support
  • Co-ordinate the involvement of these agencies
  • Remind agency staff to wear name badges
  • Update team members on the involvement of external agencies

6. Parent/Guardian Liaison Role:

  • Visit the bereaved family with the Team Leader
  • Arrange meetings, if held
  • May facilitate such meetings and manage ‘question and answer’ sessions
  • Manage the ‘consent’ issues I accordance with agreed school policy
  • Ensure that sample letters are prepared and available on the school’s IT system ready for adaptation
  • Set up room for meetings with parents
  • Maintain a record of parents seen
  • Meet with individual parents
  • Provide appropriate materials for parents (from their critical incident folder)

 7. Media Liaison Role:

  • 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 relevant teachers unions, etc.
  • Will draw up a press statement, give media briefings and interviews (as agreed by school management)

8. Administrator Role:

  • Maintenance of up to date telephone numbers of:
  • Parents or guardians
  • Teachers
  • Emergency services
  • Take telephone calls and notes that need to be responded to
  • Ensure that templates are on the school IT system in advance and ready for adaptation
  • Prepare and send out letters, faxes and emails
  • Photocopy materials needed
  • Maintain records


Action plan


  • Gather accurate information – who, what, when, where?
  • Contact appropriate agencies:
  • Emergency services
  • Medical services
  • S.E. Psychology Departments/Community Care Services/ NEPS
  • Immediate contact with family/families
  • Consult with the family regarding appropriate support from the school, e.g. funeral service
  • Ensure that a quiet place is organised for students/staff
  • Arrange supervision of students
  • Convene a meeting with Key Staff/Critical Management Team
  • Organise a staff meeting, if appropriate
  • Ensure any absent staff members are kept informed
  • Organise timetable/routine for the day (adhering to the normal school routine is important, if this is possible)
  • Class teachers to take note of any absentees who might need to be contacted, list of friends, etc. or any other relevant information; this is to be given to the Student Liaison person
  • The Chaplain/Principal will liaise with the family, to extend sympathy and clarify the family’s wishes regarding the school’s involvement in funeral/memorial service
  • Arrange a home visit by two staff representatives within 24 hours, if appropriate.
  • Have regard for different religious traditions and faiths
  • Hold end of day staff debriefing

Media Briefing (if appropriate)

  • Designate a spokesperson (Leader)
  • Gather accurate information:What happened, where and when?
  • What is the extent of the injuries?
  • How many are involved and what are their names?
  • Is there a risk of further injury?
  • What agencies have been contacted already?
  • Prepare a brief statement (Team)
  • Protect the family’s privacy



  • Reconvene Key Staff/Critical Incident Management Team
  • Review the events of the first 24 hours
  • Preparation of students/staff attending funeral
  • Involvement of students/staff in liturgy if agreed by bereaved family
  • Facilitation of students/staffs responses, e.g. Sympathy cards, flowers, Book of Condolences, etc.
  • Ritual within the school
  • Decide arrangements for support meetings for parents/students/staff
  • Decide on mechanism for feedback from teachers on vulnerable students
  • Establish contact with absent staff and pupils
  • Arrange support for individual students, groups of students, and parents, if necessary
  • Hold support/information meeting for parents/students, if necessary, in order to clarify what has happened
  • Give any teacher who feels uncomfortable with involvement in support meetings the choice of opting out
  • Arrange, in consultation with outside agencies, individual or group debriefings or support meetings with parental permission
  • Plan for the re-integration of students and staff e.g. absentees, injured, siblings, close relative etc)
  • Student Liaison person to liaise with above on their return to school.
  • Plan visits to injured
  • Family Liaison person, Class Teacher and Principal to visit home/hospital
  • Attendance and participation at funeral/memorial service (to be decided)
  • Decide this in accordance with parent’s wishes, school management decisions and in consultation with close school friends
  • School closure (if appropriate), request a decision on this from school management



Monitor students for signs of continuing distress, e.g.

  • Uncharacteristic behaviour
  • Deterioration in academic performance
  • Physical symptoms — e.g. weight loss/gain, lack of attention to appearance, tiredness, restlessness
  • Inappropriate emotional reactions
  • Increased absenteeism

If over a prolonged period of time, a student continues to display the above, he/she may need assistance from the Health Board. Constant communication with family is essential.

Evaluate response to incident and amend Critical Incident Management Plan appropriately:

  • What went well?
  • Where were the gaps?
  • What was most/least helpful?
  • Have all necessary onward referrals to support services been made?
  • Is there any unfinished business?

Formalise the Critical Incident Plan for the future:

  • Consult with NEPS Psychologist
  • Inform new staff/new pupils affected by Critical Incidents where appropriate
  • Ensure that new staff are aware of the school policy and procedures in this area
  • Ensure they are aware of which pupils were affected in any recent incident and in what way
  • When individual pupils or a class of pupils affected by an incident are transferring to a new school, the Principal should brief the Principal of the new school

Decide on appropriate ways to deal with anniversaries; being sensitive to special days and events:

  • Anniversaries may trigger emotional responses in students/staff and they may need additional support at this time
  • Acknowledge the anniversary with the family
  • Be sensitive to significant days like Birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day
  • Plan a school memorial service
  • Care of deceased person’s possessions – what are the parent’s wishes?
  • Update and amend school records

Record Keeping

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.  The school secretary will have a key role in receiving and logging telephone calls, sending letters, photocopying materials, etc.

Confidentiality and Good Name Considerations

The management and staff of Scoil Náisiúnta Baile an Phiarsaigh have a responsibility to protect the privacy and good name of the people involved in any incident and will be sensitive to the consequences of any public statements.  The members of the school staff will bear this in mind, and will seek to ensure that students do so also.  For instance, 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 Rooms

In the event of a critical incident:

  • The Staff Room will be the main room used to meet the staff
  • The Assembly/PE Hall for meetings with students in large groups
  • SET room/Sensory room for meeting with students in small groups or individually
  • The Assembly/PE Hall for parents
  • The Principal’s office for other visitors

Consultation and Communication Regarding the Plan

All staff were consulted and regard was given to their views in the preparation of this policy and plan.  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 access to a personal copy of the plan.  All new and temporary staff will be informed of the details of the plan by Laura Walsh, Principal or Teresa Corrigan, Deputy Principal.

The plan will be updated annually in October.

Drawn up by the Board of Management of Scoil Náisiúnta Baile an Phiarsaigh on _______________


Signed: ________________________

Chairperson of the Board