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Be prepared for the unthinkable

EVERY school should have an emergency plan and all staff should receive training, according to workers caught up in the aftermath of Dunblane.

The men and women most closely involved with the fall-out over the past two years told delegates from across Britain they should plan now how to deal with such a crisis.

The special seminar on the lessons of Dunblane came just one week after the Columbine high school shooting in Colorado. It was held at Stirling Royal Infirmary - the hospital where the dead and injured were brought on March 13, 1996.

"Every school needs to take crisis management more seriously," said director of education for Stirling Council, Gordon Jeyes. "Hungerford and Dunblane and the nail bomb in Brixton show that you cannot say that this will never happen again.

Stirling's head of school services, Margaret Doran, told delegates that staff needed to be informed honestly and openly of what was known and what could be passed on to parents or children during an emergency. Speculation only bred misinformation and could lead to confrontation later.

The aftermath of an emergency could also exacerbate difficulties in school relationships, Ms Doran said. She added that with hindsight, it was realised that someone from outside could have helped managers at Dunblane primary to cope with the crisis.

According to pupil support councillor Colin Findlay the trauma caused by the shootings at Columbine high will be "a lasting storm that does not blow itself out".

Ms Doran also said schools should have clearly thought out strategies for recognising and addressing grief in children.

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