School leaders, staff, and teachers are tasked with keeping children safe from acts of violence, natural hazards and other emergencies while encouraging learning. School personnel have experienced increasing expectations associated with emergency preparedness from district-level administrators, parents, and children. In the aftermath of COVID-19, enduring impacts will include additional expectations for disease prevention. Disaster plans are often developed without teacher involvement, resulting in limited knowledge of emergency preparedness, undermining buy-in and limited motivation to comply with safety protocols, including disaster drills. The lack of initial consultation and limited decision-making authority can also be sources of stress for teachers. Teachers and staff may experience anxiety about their roles and responsibilities in a crisis. This research project proposes that the key to enhancing emergency preparedness in this population is to incorporate 'psychological preparedness' within a disaster management framework. In other words, to provide the school workforce with awareness of their likely psychological response to threat and coping skills/strategies for management of that response. Importantly, workforce-focused mental health integrated approaches to emergency preparedness are likely to work best if implemented via peer support and shared leadership frameworks. This project involves adaptation and implementation of an integrated workforce mental health intervention into Pre-K-12 school emergency preparedness via shared leadership and peer support. This includes review of emergency preparedness plans/drills and mental health supports, co-creating training curriculum with Pre-K-12 schools, labor organizations, and district officials, implementing and evaluating the impact of the intervention. A matched waitlist control comparison research design will be used with six Pre-K-12 schools in a racially and ethnically diverse school district. Data will be collected for all 6 schools at baseline, and at two time points following the training. The hypothesized outcomes of the intervention are increases in H1: emergency preparedness climate; emergency preparedness specific H2: shared leadership; H3: peer support and social cohesion; H4: confidence (in emergency preparedness); and H5: psychological preparedness. The project also anticipates H6: increases in overall mental health and well-being, and H7: a reduction in emergency preparedness-specific burnout.
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical CampusCourtney Welton-Mitchell, PhD