Critical Incident Policy


In St. Damian's 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 philosophy statement.
The BOM through the staff representative, Louise Ryan, the staff and the Parents Association 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. This policy was guided by "When Tragedy Strikes" – guidelines for Critical Incident management in schools (INTO 2000).

What is a Critical Incident?

A critical incident is any incident or sequence of events which overwhelms the normal coping mechanism of the school and disrupts the running of the school. Examples:
  • Death, major illness/outbreak of disease
  • Major accidents, serious injury
  • Suicide
  • Sexual, physical and psychological abuse
  • Civil unrest, war (foreign nationals may be traumatised by events that happened in their country of origin)
  • Fire, natural and technological disaster
  • Disappearance of student from home or school
  • Unauthorised removal of student from school or home

Critical Incidents Management Team (CIM)

Leadership Role: Mr.Aodh O'Connor (Principal)087 954 4419
Communication Role: Ms Fidelma Wise (Deputy Principal)086 321 5993
Student Liaison/Counselling Role: Ms Eilís Feehan086 883 9145
Chaplaincy Role: Fr.John Deasy01 4550955
Deputy Leadership Role/Family Liaison Role: Fidelma O'Reilly086 321 5993
Parents Association Rep: Ms Anne Marie Kealy086 841 7092
B.O.M. Rep: Ms Tara Buckley087 613 4849
Administrator: Ms Audrey Rogers087 944 1848
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.

Emergency Contact List

RoleNameContact Number
Emergency ServicesGarda or Fire Service999
HSE Family Resource
St Andrews Family Resource Centre
Pearse St., Dublin 2.
01 6771930
Child & Family Agency
Block D Parkgate Business Centre, Parkgate St., Dublin 8.01 6352854
Social Worker HSEDuty Social Worker, Carnegie Centre 21-25 Lord Edward St., Dublin 201 6486555
Medical ServicesOur Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin01 4096100
School InspectorMaria McCarthy087 249 7060
SENO / PsychologistRuth McKernan01 4147984
School PsychologistSharon Eustace087 650 1977
Local G.P.Dr Michael Rowan, St Agnes Road, Crumlin01 4555306
School CommunityRefer to Edvance for all staff / Board of Management phone
School Welfare OfficerChild Welfare, Lord Edward St., Dublin 201 4686289
School ElectricianDeclan Higgins087 252 7422
School PlumberBarry Smith085 706 8555
Parish PriestFr. Paul Tyrrell01 4555368
Local MediaTallaght/South Dublin ECHO01 4685350

Roles and Responsibilities

Leadership Role

» Intervention

  • Confirm the event
  • Activate the Critical Incident response team
  • Liaise with the Gardai
  • Leads briefing meetings for staff on the facts as known, gives staff members an opportunity to express their feelings and ask questions, outlines the routine for the day
  • Express sympathy to family
  • Clarify facts surrounding event
  • Make contact with other relevant agencies
  • Decide how news will be communicated to different groups (staff, pupils, outside school)

» Postvention

  • Ensure provision of ongoing support to staff and students
  • Facilitate any appropriate memorial events
  • Review Plan

Communication Role

» Intervention

  • With Team, prepare a public statement
  • Organise a designated room to address media promptly
  • Ensure telephone lines are free for outgoing and important incoming calls
  • Liaise with relevant outside support agencies

» Postvention

  • Review and evaluate effectiveness of communication response

Student Liaison/ Counselling Role

» Intervention
Advises the staff on the procedures for identification of vulnerable pupils

  • Outline specific services available in school
  • Alerts staff to vulnerable pupils
  • Put in [place clear referral procedures
  • Address immediate needs of staff
  • Provide materials for staff(from critical incident folder)
  • Provide information
  • Provide counseling

» Postvention

  • Provide ongoing support to vulnerable students
  • Monitor class most affected
  • Refer on, as appropriate
  • Review and evaluate Plan

Chaplaincy Role

» Intervention

  • Visit home(s), if appropriate
  • Assist with prayer services
  • Make contact with other local clergy
  • Be available as personal and spiritual support to staff

» Postvention

  • Provide follow-up support to families in conjunction with Home School Community Liaison
  • Work in partnership with Critical Incident team
  • Review and Evaluate Plan

Family Liaison Role

» Intervention

  • Coordinate contact with families (following first contact by principal)
  • Consult with family around involvement of school in e.g. funeral service
  • Assist with all communication dealing with parents of any student affected by critical incident

» Postvention

  • Provide ongoing support to families affected by the incident
  • Involve as appropriate family in-school liturgies/memorial services
  • Offer to link family with community support groups
  • Review and evaluate plan

Action plan


  • Maintain a calm atmosphere and clear leadership
  • Immediate contact with family/families
  • Consult with the family regarding appropriate support from the school, e.g. funeral service
  • Ensure that a quiet place can be made for students/staff
  • Rooms made available as follows:
    Staff Room: Teachers
    Hall: Students
    Principal's Office: Parents

Media Briefing (if appropriate)

  • Designate a spokesperson. (Leader)
  • Gather accurate information
  • Prepare a brief statement. (Team)
  • Protect the family’s privacy
  • It is important to obtain accurate information about the incident
    1. What happened, where and when?
    2. What are the extent of the injuries?
    3. How many are involved and what are their names?
    4. Is there a risk of further injury?
    5. What agencies have been contacted already?
  • Contact appropriate agencies
    1. Emergency services
    2. Medical services
    3. H.S.E. Psychology Departments/Community Care Services
    4. NEPS
    5. BOM
    6. DES/Schools Inspector
  • Convene a meeting with Key Staff/Critical Management Team
    1. Organize a staff meeting, if appropriate.
    2. Ensure any absent staff members are kept informed.
    3. Organize timetable/routine for the day. (Adhering to the normal school routine is important, if this is possible.)
    4. Class teachers to take note of any absentees who might need to be contacted, list of friends etc, or any other relevant information and give to the Student Liaison person.
    5. Arrange supervision of students.
  • Liaise with the family regarding funeral arrangements/memorial service.
    1. 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.
    2. Arrange a home visit by two staff representatives within 24 hours, if appropriate. (Student Liaison person + Class teacher)
    3. Have regard for different religious traditions and faiths.


  • 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.
  • Review the events of the first 24 hours
    1. Reconvene Key Staff/Critical Incident Management Team.
    2. Decide arrangements for support meetings for parents/students/staff.
    3. Decide on mechanism for feedback from teachers on vulnerable students.
    4. Have review of Critical Incident Management Team meeting.
    5. Establish contact with absent staff and pupils.
  • Arrange support for individual students, groups of students, and parents, if necessary.
    1. Hold support/information meeting for parents/students, if necessary, in order to clarify what has happened
    2. Give any teacher who feels uncomfortable with involvement in support meetings the choice of opting out
    3. Arrange, in consultation, with outside agencies, individual or group debriefings or support meetings with parental permission
    4. Plan for the re-integration of students and staff e.g. absentees, injured, siblings, close relative etc)
    5. Student Liaison person to liaise with above on their return to school
  • Plan visits to injured
    1. Family Liaison person + Class Teacher + Principal to visit home/hospital
    2. Attendance and participation at funeral/memorial service (To be decided)
    3. Decide this in accordance with parents' wishes and 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.
  • If, over a prolonged period of time, a student continues to display the following, he/she may need assistance from the Health Board. Constant communication with family is essential.
    1. Uncharacteristic behaviour
    2. Deterioration in academic performance
    3. Physical symptoms — e.g. weight loss/gain, lack of attention to appearance, tiredness, restlessness
    4. Inappropriate emotional reactions
    5. Increased absenteeism
  • Evaluate response to incident and amend Critical Incident Management Plan appropriately.
    1. What went well?
    2. Where were the gaps?
    3. What was most/least helpful?
    4. Have all necessary onward referrals to support services been made?
    5. Is there any unfinished business?
  • Formalise the Critical Incident Plan for the future
    1. Consult with NEPS Psychologist
  • Inform new staff/new school pupils affected by Critical Incidents where appropriate
    1. Ensure that new staff are aware of the school policy and procedures in this area.
    2. Ensure they are aware of which pupils were affected in any recent incident and in what way.
    3. 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 (Be sensitive to special days and events)
    1. Anniversaries may trigger emotional responses in students/staff and they may need additional support at this time.
    2. Acknowledge the anniversary with the family.
    3. 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.

Drawn up by the Board of Management of St.Damian's National School.
Ratified February 2014 and subject to biannual review.

Sample Consent Letters

Resource for schools: R2
This letter can be used as a template for schools when they are seeking parental consent for a child to be seen in a group or individually by a NEPS psychologist.

Dear parents,

You may already know that our teachers and staff have been providing support to our students following (specific reference to the incident). Additional support is also being provided to our school by psychologist/s from the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS).
The psychologist will be available, where necessary, to meet with individuals or with groups of students to help them during this difficult time.
The aim of such sessions will be to:

  1. Provide information about dealing with grief and loss in a healthy way
  2. Allow students the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings in a safe environment
  3. Allow students time to comfort and support each other, under the guidance of experienced staff from …….
  4. Help students resume their normal routines as soon as possible.

If you would like for your son/daughter to participate in such a session and any follow-up meetings that might be scheduled, please give your consent by signing below.

You should return it to the school immediately.

If you have any questions, please contact (Name and phone number of contact person)

I give my consent for (Student's name) ___________________ to participate in a group/Individual Session.

Parent or Legal Guardian

School Principal


Resource for schools: R3
This letter can be used as a template for schools which decide to seek advance parental consent so that a child may be seen by a NEPS psychologist (in a group or individually) in the aftermath of a critical incident. It is to cater for the situation where parents cannot be immediately contacted.

(_______________________ name of school) has developed a plan for responding when a tragedy occurs.
When such an event happens, schools are offered support by psychologists from the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), an agency of the Department of Education and Science.
If we feel it is necessary, we would like to be in a position to have your child seen by the psychologist who can offer advice and support.
Before any child is seen by a NEPS psychologist parental consent is usually required. We will make every effort to obtain this. However, in the unlikely event of being unable to contact you, we are writing to seek your consent to your child being seen by a member of NEPS as part of our school’s immediate response. This is to allow us to support your child in the best way possible. Your child may be seen individually, in a small group or as part of a class group.
If you wish to discuss this, please contact me at your convenience.

Yours sincerely,
Principal's name

Schools should choose whether to use Option A or B below, or a more general letter (see 1.3 in the Schools Guidelines)

Option A.
Please fill in the form below confirming that you have read this letter and stating whether you wish or do not wish to have your child seen by a NEPS psychologist and return to ____________________.

I have read this letter and
I wish to have _________________________ seen by the NEPS psychologist.
I do not wish to have _________________________ seen by the NEPS psychologist.

Parents/carers: ______________________________________________________________
Date: ______________________
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  

Option B.
The school will assume your agreement if you do not return this slip stating that you do not wish to have your child seen by a NEPS psychologist. Please fill in the form below and return to ___________________________.
I have read this letter and I do not wish ___________________________ to be seen by the NEPS psychologist.
Parents/carers: ______________________________________________________________
Date: ______________________


Resource for schools: R4
This letter can be used as a template for schools when they are informing parents of a tragedy, offering some advice and outlining what the schools response involves.

Dear Parents,

The school has experienced (the sudden death, accidental injury, etc.) of Name of student(s). We are deeply saddened by the deaths/events. (Brief details of the incident, and in the event of a death, perhaps some positive remembrances of the person lost). Our thoughts are with (family name).
We have support structures in place to help your child cope with this tragedy. (Elaborate).
It is possible that your child may have some feelings and questions that he/she may like to discuss with you. It is important to give factual information that is appropriate to their age.
You can help your child by taking time to listen and by encouraging them to express their feelings.
All children are different and will express their feelings in different ways. It is not uncommon for children to have difficulty concentrating or to be fearful, anxious, or irritable. They may become withdrawn, cry, complain of physical aches and pains, have difficulty sleeping or have nightmares.
Some may not want to eat. These are generally short term reactions. Over the course of the days to come, please keep an eye on your child and allow him/her to express their feelings without criticism.
Although classes will continue as usual, I anticipate that the next few days will be difficult for everyone.
(Optional) An information night for parents is planned for (date, time and place). At that time, further information about how to help children in grief will be given.
We have enclosed some information which you may find useful in helping your child through this difficult time.
If you would like advice you may contact the following people at the school. (Details).

Principal's signature


Resource for schools: R5
This letter can be used as a template for schools when they are informing parents of a violent death, offering some advice and outlining what the schools response involves.

Dear Parents,

I need to inform you about a very sad event that has happened.
(Give accurate information about the incident, but avoid using the word murder as this will not be established until the court case is completed).
A child/young person from the neighbourhood, who is the brother of ____________________, a student here at school, was killed as a result of (a violent attack, violent incident in the street etc.) earlier this week. We are all profoundly saddened by his death.
We have shared this information and have had discussions with all of our students so that they know what has happened. School staff members have been available for students on an on-going basis today. Other support personnel (including psychologists etc, according to actual arrangements) are available to advise staff and, where necessary, to talk to students.
This support will continue to be available for (if appropriate insert how long).
The death of any young person is tragic, but a violent death is even more difficult. It is hard to have to teach our children about the violence in our world and to accept that sometimes we do not have the power to prevent it.
This death may cause a variety of reactions in your child. Some children/young people may be afraid for their own life and for the lives of those they love. Take time to listen to their fears and reassure them that what has happened is rare.
We have enclosed some additional information that may be useful during this time.
The media are in the vicinity of the school and may approach you or your children. You need not respond to their questions if you are approached. We will not allow the media to interview your child at school and our general advice is that you should not let your children be interviewed. They are not mature enough to judge what to say and may say something they will regret later.
(If planned) A support meeting for parents is planned for (date, time and place). At that time we can talk further about how to help ourselves and our children.
Our thoughts are with (family name) and with each of you.

Principal's name


Resource for schools: R6
This can be used as a template by schools to be emailed, faxed or given to the media. It may help to decrease the number of media calls and callers to the school.
In some instances it is not appropriate to provide names or information that might identify individuals. This announcement will need to be changed based upon confidentiality issues, the wishes of the victim's family and the nature of the incident.

My name is (Name) and I am the Principal of (Name) School. We learned this morning of the death of (one of our students or Name of student). This is a terrible tragedy for________________ family(ies), our school and our community. We are deeply saddened by these events. Our sympathy and thoughts are with (Name) family and friends.
Name of student/students was a (5th year boy) and will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
We have been in contact with his/her parents and they have requested that we all understand their need for privacy at this difficult time. Offers of support have been pouring in and are greatly appreciated. Our school have implemented our Critical Incident Management Plan.
Psychologists from the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and (insert other information if relevant) have been with us all day supporting and advising teachers in their efforts to assist our students at this time.
The teachers have been helping students to deal with the tragic event.
The school has been open to parents, to support them and to offer them advice and guidance.
We would ask you to respect our privacy at this time.
Thank you.

_________________________ Chairperson
_________________________ Principal
_________________________ Health and Safety Officer