Advice for Winning School Emergency Preparedness Grants

Our education grants columnist explains the steps to take and what you need to know to prepare and win school emergency preparedness grants.


A few years ago, I wrote a school emergency preparedness grant for a district. The community surrounding the schools had high rates of crime, including heroin use and drug dealing. Past incidents in the district community included an escaped inmate, home invasions and drug cartel issues. In the first four weeks of the school year, dangerous incidents included a bomb scare, a district student being arrested for murder, and a drug cartel style abduction and extortion of a 16-year-old which resulted in a high-speed police chase towards the border with Mexico, resulting in arrests of five suspects and subsequent rescue of the victim.

Thinking of violent incidents in that school district along with those such as Columbine, Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech, I was passionate about working on that school emergency preparedness grant proposal and ecstatic when it was funded. The $30,000 grant program helped the school district acquire much needed training, community planning meetings, school site emergency toolkits, police radios, tablets and WIFI routers and updating the Emergency Response Plan. This grant allowed school security personnel and community first responders to enhance their work together in keeping students, staff and the public safe.

So how can you prepare such a grant proposal to make it stand out from the rest and increase your chances of funding? Here are some tips.

Express the Need

Make the reviewer feel as if they live in that community, and that they must fund your proposal to help your students. Follow these four steps:

  1. Gather school discipline data, police reports, community crime statistics and personal school stories involving students (without using names of course).
  2. Collaborate with school security personnel, local law enforcement, fire departments, military bases, hospitals, airports, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), businesses and other emergency responders to strengthen the proposal.
  3. Evaluate the district emergency response plan, noting strengths and weaknesses.
  4. Ensure the plan includes the following critical elements: prevention, response, recovery, protection, and mitigation.
Know the Jargon

Make sure you understand terms such as active shooter, targeted violence, mass casualty incident, armed assault, intrusion, burglary and robbery. There is a big difference between a planned attack and a violent act in the community spilling over into the school environment, such as those requiring a lockdown or an order to “shelter in place.”

Understand the Likelihood of Violence in Schools

While mass casualty incidents are rare, the media makes them seem much more likely. Research current statistics such as those found through FEMA, and understand the need to prepare for events that may be very different from those portrayed through the media.

Action Item: Prepare threat assessments annually.

Prepare Parents and Families for Crisis Incidents

Since many students have cell phones at school, they may alert parents that a violent incident is occurring. Having a mass arrival of parents at the school can hinder the work of first responders, so ensure families understand the district crisis plan and policies. This includes natural disasters, life threatening contagious diseases and technological emergencies.

Seek Collaboration

Funders are increasingly looking for this. Besides the partnerships with first responders and other community resources, involve many district personnel, families, students, counselors, youth service agencies, churches and other local stakeholders in the grant planning and project implementation.

Pro Tip: Consider forming an Emergency Response Advisory Team if you don’t already have one.

Share Communications Plan

Ensure the communication plan for school emergencies is available to all stakeholders and understood by all, including those who may not be proficient in English. Assign buddies to help students with language difficulties or special needs.

Dispel the “Not Us” Myth

Prepare stakeholders for anything, and make sure there is not an overabundant feeling of being safe in a school. Although this should be the case, it is not always the reality. People inherently avoid having these kind of difficult thoughts or possible emergency event discussions. Encourage stakeholders to report warning signs such as violent social media posts, disturbing art, cruelty to animals, discussions of violent acts, bullying or suicidal ideology.

Create Classroom and District Emergency Toolkits

These should include the crisis plan, student rosters, first aid kits, flashlights, batteries, water, snacks and other supplies as recommended by FEMA.

Follow National Incident Management System (NIMS)

Use this proactive approach to planning for emergencies including the following components:

  • Command and Management
  • Resource Management
  • Communications and Information Management
  • Preparedness
  • Continual Management and Maintenance.

Describe how you will use these tools to plan and manage staff in the grant proposal.

Take these tips to heart, and prepare that school emergency preparedness proposal with passion and ability. Know the reality, train yourself, plan, and ensure your district is ready for anything. After all, as Howard Ruff, famed financial adviser, said, “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”