Looking Forward: Columbine’s Legacy Ten Years After

In preparation for Columbine's tenth anniversary in April 2009, NSPRA Associate Director Karen H. Kleinz, APR, wrote an NSPRA Counselor issue with recommendations and resources for school districts. Her advice? Focus on looking forward and acknowledging what school leaders have learned and the positive changes that have occurred in how schools prepare for and manage crisis situations. Members can access the issue in the Members Resources area (log-in required). 

New Edition of NSPRA's Crisis Communication Management Manual Now Available

NSPRA’s Complete Crisis Communication Management Manual is a best seller for good reason: school leaders know a crisis can strike at any moment. This manual makes sure you’re ready! Over the years, school leaders across the country have relied on this invaluable resource as a guide to navigate the treacherous communication challenges that a crisis presents.

This in-depth source of information and advice is based on the experiences of primary author Rick Kaufmann, APR, who headed the crisis response at the Columbine High School tragedy. It includes first-hand reports from those who have recovered from hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and everyday mini-crises we all face in our schools.

NSPRA's Complete Crisis Communication Management Manual will:

  • Prepare you to deal with any crisis you may encounter.
  • Help you protect your district’s reputation in the face of today’s unforgiving public.
  • Help you revise and update your district’s crisis plan.
  • Give you the examples and advice you need in one place to save you time when you need it the most!

The Complete Crisis Communications Management Manual contains training materials that can be adapted for your staff’s professional development. Make sure all employees know how to respond in the event of a crisis or tragedy – it’s essential!

This 3rd edition includes the following new or expanded information:

  • How to practice “media triage.” See p. 81
  • What to do with reporters in “attack mode”? See p. 75
  • Who should comprise your incident command system team? See p. 26
  • What’s the best location foryour incident command center? See P. 30
  • Where is your parents’ reunion site after an evacuation? See p. 31
  • What should you have in your “go kit”? See pages 2-41
  • 10 myths about school shootings. See p. 47
  • Who staffs a support line for victims and their families? See p. 72
  • Should memorials be established? See p. 76
  • Steps to take in the event of a biohazard threat. See p. 107
  • Lessons learned from hurricanes Katrina and Rita and other natural disasters. See p. 119
  • MRSA resources and recommendations. See p. 134
  • Sample voice and e-mail messages from wildfire incidents.See p. 161
  • Threat assessment decision tree. See p. 171
  • Decisions with a studentabduction. See p. 179
  • Intruders and hostage situations. See p. 205
  • Suicide “copycats” and clusters. See p. 219
  • Dealing with death in the school community. See p. 221
  • Employee strike communication plan. See p. 239
  • Sample phone messages and letters during work stoppages.See p. 247
  • Sample training agenda for crisis response team. See p. 253

The manual is available in both print and digital forms. The complete package (printed manual plus CD) is just $189.00 for NSPRA members and $219.00 for non-members. Orders can be placed through our online store, by PDF/Fax, or by calling NSPRA at 301-519-1496.

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Whether you're engaged in crisis planning or launching a proactive crisis response, communication is key. And NSPRA has resources to help.

The First 30 Minutes

What is done in the first 30 minutes of a crisis is crucial in determining people’s perceptions of the crisis and how it was handled.

  • Have the appropriate person handle the situation. An administrator (the principal or an assistant/designee) should take charge of the situation, implementing the crisis plan.
  • Understand the circumstances; define the problems.
  • Consider the options; act decisively to ensure the health and safety of students and staff and protection of district property.
  • Communicate with staff; keep the news media informed.
  • Update students periodically in their classrooms. Avoid having large group meetings.
  • Send the central office a crisis assessment and information sheet that includes the following:
    • Brief description of crisis.
    • Actions completed.
    • What you project will happen in the next two hours.
    • What resources you need.
  • Inform parents by letter, sent home with students at the end of the day, explaining what occurred and what has been done about it. If appropriate, e-mail could also be used to inform parents quickly.
  • Keep the community informed. To allay fears and demonstrate competence in handling the situation, get accurate information out through the news media and other methods such as your key communicators group.

Source: NSPRA’s Complete Crisis Communication Management Manual for Schools (2nd Edition). (March 2004 PRincipal Communicator)

In Their Own Words:
Members' Perspectives on the Value of NSPRA in a Crisis


More Resources for You

  • In the fall of 2005, four accidents caused serious concerns about school bus safety in the Virginia Beach City Public Schools. The VBCPS communications office proactively responded with a safety initiative to address concerns and raise awareness. Check out the videos, links and other info available on the VBCPS transportation web site as well as all the details from this archived Tip of the Week.
  • To see how communication was key in the response to the largest school fire in North Carolina, read former Guilford County Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier's account from this 2007 NSPRA Counselor issue.
  • As part of a session at the NSPRA Phoenix Seminar (2007), Rick Kaufman, APR, highlighted seven mistakes you don't want to make in crisis communication.


NSPRA members can also search "crisis" at the NSPRA archives or post questions on NSPRA's discussion forums in the member's area.

Or, browse the products available from NSPRA's catalog, including the Complete Crisis Communication Management Manual for Schools and check out articles available for purchase and download at NSPRA's e-Knowledge portal site.