Critical Incident Managment Policy & Guidelines

Critical Incident Management Policy & Guidelines of Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh, Bishopstown, Cork.

Roll number: 62580U

School Patron: Presentation Brothers Schools Trust

Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh aims to protect the well-being of its students and staff by providing a safe and nurturing environment at all times as outlined in our school mission statement. The Board of Management, through Ms Brenda Moriarty, has drawn up a Critical Incident Management Plan as one element of the school’s policies and plans. A Critical Incidents Management Team has been established to steer the development and implementation of the plan.

Review and Research

The CIMT have consulted resource documents available to schools on and including:

  • Responding to Critical Incidents Guidelines and Resources for Schools (NEPS 201 6)
  • Suicide Prevention in Schools: Best Practice Guidelines (IAS, National Suicide Review Group        (2002)
  • Suicide Prevention in the Community – A Practical Guide (HSE 2011)
  • Well-Being in Post-Primary Schools Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention (DES, DOH, HSE 2013)

What is meant by the term ‘critical incident’:

The staff and management of Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh recognise a critical incident to be “an incident or sequence of events that overwhelms the normal coping mechanism of the school”. Critical incidents may involve one or more students or staff members, or members of our local community. 

Types of incidents might include:

  • The death of a member of the school community through accident, violence, suicide or suspected suicide or other unexpected death 
  • An intrusion into the school
  • An accident involving members of the school community
  • An accident/tragedy in the wider community
  • Serious damage to the school building through fire, flood, vandalism, etc
  • The disappearance of a member of the school community.

This list is by no means exhaustive. It may be necessary to activate the critical incident plan following the death of a recent past student. This is particularly important if the deceased’s circle of friends includes current students and/or there are siblings still in the school.

The strategies outlined in this document should be viewed alongside, and in conjunction with, the following practices and policies.

Health & Safety Statement Pastoral Care Policy

S.P.H.E. Curriculum Discipline Policy

Wellbeing Policy

The suggestions and insights in this document need to be viewed alongside the particular and unique needs that are presented by every given critical incident. Some insights/suggestions may be applicable to some situations and not others. Indeed, two similar incidents may require different approaches. 


The aim of the CIMP is to help school management and staff to react quickly and effectively in the event of an incident, to enable us to maintain a sense of control and to ensure that appropriate support is offered to students and staff. Having a good plan should also help ensure that the effects on the students and staff will be limited. It should enable us to return to normality as soon as possible. We have put systems in place to help to build resilience in both staff and students, thus preparing them to cope with a range of life events. These include measures to address both the physical and psychological safety of the school community.

Physical safety:

Anthony Malone & Bill Daly

  • Evacuation plan formulated
  • Regular fire drills occur
  • Fire exits and extinguishers are regularly checked

Other staff as per supervision rota

  • Pre-class supervision in the school in the mornings and supervision as the students leave after school

School access

  • Main school door at the front of the school is locked during class time. Entry is gained by using a buzzer system which is controlled by the secretary/librarian. 


Psychological safety:

Multiple Personnel

The management and staff of Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh aim to use available programmes and resources to address the personal and social development of students, to enhance a sense of safety and security in the school and to provide opportunities for reflection and discussion. 

  • Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is integrated into the work of the school. It is addressed in the curriculum by addressing issues such as grief and loss; communication skills; stress and anger management; resilience; conflict management; problem solving; help-seeking; bullying; decision making and prevention of alcohol and drug misuse. Promotion of mental health is an integral part of this provision
  • All Staff have access to training for their role in SPHE
  • All Staff have undergone training in accordance with the DES ‘Child Protection Procedures for Primary & Post Primary Schools 2017’ and ‘The Children First National Guidance for Protection & Welfare of Children’.
  • Books and resources on difficulties affecting post primary school students are available
  • Information is provided on mental health in general and such specific areas as signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety. The school has a Positive Mental Health week annually and we have been successful in getting the Amber Flag in 2018. 
  • The school is part of the One Good School programme, and supports student’s mental health & wellbeing.
  • Some staff are informed in the area of suicide awareness. The Guidance Counsellors are trained in interventions for suicidal students
  • The school has developed links with a range of external agencies such as Pieta House, CAMHS & NEPS. We also have a number of links with outside speakers and organisations that hold workshops with groups of students.
  • Inputs to students by external providers are carefully considered in the light of criteria about student safety, the appropriateness of the content, and the expertise of the providers. See DES Circulars 0023/2010 (Post-Primary)
  • The school has a clear anti-bullying policy & an anti-cyber bullying policy
  • There is a care system in place in the school using the “Continuum of Support” approach which is outlined in the NEPS documents published in 2010 for post primary schools. See also Student Support Teams in Post Primary Schools (2014). These documents are available on 
  • Our Pastoral Care Team holds a weekly meeting to discuss student welfare. The Pastoral Care team consists of the Principal, two Deputy Principals and two Guidance Counsellors.
  • Students who are identified as being at risk are referred to the appropriate staff member, usually the Guidance Counsellor, concerns are explored and the appropriate level of assistance and support is provided. Parents are informed, where necessary, and where appropriate, a referral is made to a supporting agency.
  • The school offers a chaplaincy service, on a part-time basis.
  • Staff are informed about how to access support for themselves.


Initial communication regarding a critical incident will be via the school app.

  • Response Level 1: the death of a student or staff member who was terminally ill; the death of parent/sibling; a fire in school not resulting in serious injury; serious damage to school property
  • Response Level 2: the sudden death of a student or staff member
  • Response Level 3: incident: an accident/event involving a number of students; a violent death; an incident with a high media profile or involving a number of schools.


Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT)

A CIMT has been established in line with best practice. The members of the team were selected on a voluntary basis and will retain their roles for at least one school year. The members of the team will meet annually to review and update the policy and plan. Each member of the team has access to the critical incident folder. This contains a copy of the policy and plan and materials particular to their role, to be used in the event of an incident. 

Team leader 


  • Alerts the team members to the crisis and convenes a meeting
  • Coordinates the tasks of the team
  • Liaises with the Board of Management; DES; NEPS; SEC
  • Liaises with the bereaved family


Garda liaison 


  • Liaises with the Gardaí
  • Ensures that information about deaths or other developments is checked out for accuracy before being shared


Staff liaison 


  • 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
  • Advises staff on the procedures for identification of vulnerable students
  • Provides materials for staff (from their critical incident folder)
  • Keeps staff updated as the day progresses
  • Is alert to vulnerable staff members and makes contact, with them individually 


Student liaison 


  • Will co-ordinate information from class teachers and year heads about students they are concerned about 
  • Alerts other staff to vulnerable students (appropriately) 
  • Provides materials for students (from their critical incident folder)
  • Updates student contact records in VSware
  • Looks after setting up and supervision of prayer room as a quiet space, assisted by the Religion Dept.


Community/agency liaison 


  • Maintains up to date lists of contact numbers of 
    • Key parents, such as members of the Parents Council
    • Emergency support services and other external contacts and resources
  • Liaises with agencies in the community for support and onward referral
  • Is alert to the need to check credentials of individuals offering support 
  • Coordinates the involvement of these agencies
  • Reminds agency staff to wear name badges with the assistance of the secretary 
  • Updates team members on the involvement of external agencies

Parent liaison


  • Visits the bereaved family with the team leader and other members of the CIMT
  • Arranges parent meetings, if held
  • May facilitate such meetings, and manage ‘questions and answers’ 
  • Manages the ‘consent’ issues in accordance with agreed school policy
  • Ensures that sample letters are typed up, on the school’s system and ready for adaptation 
  • Sets up room for meetings with parents 
  • Maintains a record of parents seen
  • Meets with individual parents
  • Provides appropriate materials for parents (from their critical incident folder)


Media liaison 


  • In advance of an incident, will consider issues that may arise and how they might be responded to (e.g. students being interviewed, photographers on the premises, etc)
  • In the event of an incident, will liaise where necessary with the SEC; relevant teacher unions etc. 
  • Will draw up a press statement, give media briefings and interviews (as agreed by school management) 




  • Maintenance of up to date telephone numbers of 
    • Parents or guardians
    • Teachers
    • Emergency services
  • Takes telephone calls and notes those that need to be responded to
  • Ensures that templates are on the school’s system in advance and ready for adaptation
  • Prepares and sends out letters, emails and texts
  • Photocopies materials needed
  • Maintains records


Pastoral Care

Members of the pastoral care team will form part of the Critical Incident Team, and be available to liaise with pupils, parents and staff members. This could include:

  • One-to-one meetings with individuals
  • Informing parents
  • Pastoral advice
  • Having a presence in the school
  • Visiting families affected

Pastoral Care

Members of the pastoral care team will form part of the Critical Incident Team, and be available to liaise with pupils, parents and staff members. This could include:

  • One-to-one meetings with individuals
  • Informing parents
  • Pastoral advice
  • Having a presence in the school
  • Visiting families affected

Record Keeping 

In the event of an incident each member of the team will keep records of phone calls made and received, letters sent and received, meetings held, persons met, interventions used, material used etc. 

The school secretary will have a key role in receiving and logging telephone calls, sending letters, photocopying materials, etc.
Templates of letters are on file and ready to be sent following an incident.

Confidentiality and good name considerations

Management and staff of Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh have a responsibility to protect the privacy and good name of people involved in any incident and will be sensitive to the consequences of public statements. Members of school staff will bear this in mind, and seek to ensure that students do so also, e.g. the term ‘suicide’ will not be used unless there is solid information that death was due to suicide, and that the family involved consents to its use. The phrases ‘tragic death’ or ‘sudden death’ may be used instead. Similarly, the word ‘murder’ should not be used until it is legally established that a murder was committed. The term ‘violent death’ may be used instead.

Consultation and communication regarding the plan 

This policy was agreed by the Strategic planning group and Board of Management. It was emailed to all staff on X. Each member of the critical incident team was given a personal copy of the plan by email.

All new and temporary staff will be informed of the details of the plan byXXXXXXXXXX.

The plan will be updated annually.


Timetable for Review:

The plan will be updated annually after the Critical Incident Management Team has met to review the policy.

This plan was ratified by the Board of Management 


Signed: ______________________                                                      Date: _____________________

Chairperson Board of Management





Short term actions – Day 1



  1. Gather the facts – what has happened, when, how, where and who is injured or dead.
  2. Consult Responding to Critical Incidents: Guidelines for schools (available on the DES website Go to NEPS link.
  3. Is it an incident requiring a NEPS Response at Level 1, 2 or 3?
  4. Who do I need to call (see Emergency Contact List – R23)
  5. Meet with the Critical Incident Management Team.
  6. Meet with other agencies, if involved, to agree on roles and procedures.
  7. Have administration staff photocopy appropriate literature.
  8. Arrange for the supervision of students.
  9. Address the staff meeting.
  10. Identify vulnerable students.
  11. Inform students.
  12. Draft a media statement (see R6).
  13. Prepare for a media interview, (see Section 9).
  14. Draft a letter to parents (see R2, R4 and R5).
  15. Meet with the CIMT to review the day and arrange an early morning meeting for the following day.
  16. Meet with the staff group.
  17. Make contact with the affected family/families. 

Establishing Facts 


Upon an incident occurring, immediate action should be taken including all or some of the following.

    1. Establish contact (name) with necessary organisations, e.g. Gardaí, H.S.E. hospital, etc.
    2. Establish the nature of incident.
    3. Establish the name/s of the bereaved
    4. Establish names and whereabouts of those injured
    5. Establish extent of injuries
    6. Establish names of those who are uninjured.
    7. Determine location of victims.
    8. Determine if there is any risk of further injury.
    9. Determine if those on the trip are in more than one location.
    10. Establish if emergency services have already been contacted.
    11. Establish the names and whereabouts of witnesses including teachers.
    12. Can teachers at the incident remove those unharmed from the scene?
    13. Contact other members of the critical incident team.
    14. Meet team members and allocate any necessary jobs to be carried out.
    15. Initiate transport arrangements if necessary.
    16. Make individual contact with staff that may be directly involved or affected.
    17. Visit incident site if necessary.
    18. Visit hospital if necessary.
    19. Arrange to deal with enquiries by phone. 
    20. Arrange transport if necessary if incident occurred on a school trip.
    21. Arrange area or rooms to facilitate reunion of pupils and parents.
    22. Special arrangements for those students whose parents are not available.
    23. Establish how well details of the incident are known.
    24. Contact Parent’s association.
    25. Contact B.O.M.
    26. Ensure telephone is manned.
    27. Provide a script to those dealing with telephone queries.
    28. When dealing with families check, is there already a deceased parent/s, or a deceased sibling. Are the parents separated? If separated, consider how to deal with both parents separately, if they are unable to be dealt with together.
    29. Contact and visit family ie checking first that they would welcome a visit. Ensure that at least one of the team that visits has a good relationship with the family.  If there has been a difficult relationship between the family and the school consider using a third party. This third party could accompany the school representatives or act as an alternative. Every effort should be made to avoid the latter.
    30. Other students may be hearing news via social media. Consult with parents affected if they will give permission for the school to send a communication to other parents. This may limit the number of students who may hear the news via social media and allow other parents to tell their child face-to-face.
    31. Discuss with the family what you have planned to take place in the school and consult with them what you would like to say for the good of the whole student body and what they want you to say.
    32. Remember, if the family have to be met a number of times try and limit the number of times they have to ‘tell their story’. 
    33. Determine how to deal with media if necessary.
    34. If there are a number of students involved, is a family room in the school needed?

    If incident occurred abroad, 

    1. Contact Department of Foreign Affairs
    2. Contact relevant Embassy or Consulate office.

    Provide list containing

    1. Names and contact details of adults on trip.
    2. Try and contact teachers directly to get first-hand information on the ground.
    3. Names and contact details of these adults’ families.
    4. Names of students on trip.
    5. Names and contact details of parents of these students.
    6. Determine if those on the trip are in more than one location.
    7. Details of any pre-existing medical condition of adults on trip and medication required.
    8. Details of any pre-existing medical condition of students on trip and medication required.
    9. Inform authorities if the school trip involved more than one school.
    10. Contact travel agency used.


    Depending on the scale of the incident, other issues may need to be address by authorities.


    1. Does the school need a liaison officer from the authorities working with or in the school?
    2. Is there a Garda presence required at the school?
    3. Is a Garda presence required at family homes?
    4. Can authorities provide a spokesperson to deal with media?
    5. Do authorities need to plan to bring family members of the deceased to the country? 
    6. Do authorities need to plan to bring family members of the injured to the country? This may be a greater need than the provision of immediate counselling.
    7. Do authorities need to plan to bring family members of the uninjured to the country? This may be a greater need than the provision of immediate counselling.
    8. Do authorities need to plan to bring a school staff member to the country?
    9. Do authorities need to plan to meet those returning from the airport?
    10. If there is an underdeveloped health system in the country where the incident occurred, do authorities need to evacuate home or to the nearest other county?
    11. Do authorities need to consider bringing medication/ equipment for the injured or mediation for those with previous medical conditions?
    12. Do authorities need to contact Irish N.G.O.s on the ground for assistance?
    13. Do authorities need to contact an organised Irish Diaspora organisation on the ground, to provide assistance?
    14. Do authorities need to contact an Irish Religious organisation on the ground, to provide assistance?
    15. If there are no Irish organisations on the ground, do authorities need to contact U.K. or another country’s Embassy/Consulate/N.G.O. s on the ground for assistance?
    16. While the primary concern needs to focus on the deceased, injured and non-injured and their families, there is a body of students and parents at home who may be upset, particularly younger students or those very close to those affected. With this in mind, consult with authorities what can be, and who should, communicate to other parents and students in the school. Information can have the effect of reducing anxiety. This can also prevent false rumours.


    Factual Verification Report


    Date of Incident:

    Time of Incident:


    Location of Incident:

    Detailed Description of the Incident: 

    Person(s) Involved: __________________________________________________________


    Action Taken: ______________________________________________________


    Report received from:


    Report compiled by:



    Family/Parents/Guardians contacted: Yes________ No__________

    If No, then no information will be given by any member of the school community.




    Family & Suicide


    When meeting with the family where a suicide has occurred, additional issues arise.

    The following may be addressed over a number of visits.   


    1. The family may be willing to allow it be stated by the school that the death was by suicide. Permission for this should be sought and not assumed. 


    1. Before the family is asked for permission to divulge the cause of death, school representatives may anticipate that the family may be reluctant to let people know the cause of death. It therefore might be useful, before they are actually asked and say no, to point out that students are already speculating about suicide amongst themselves and that it can help the school and others if it can be spoken about publicly. Outline the benefits of this and maybe outline the difficulties faced if the cause of death is not acknowledged. This is particularly important if the students are already talking about suicide.  It might also be useful to point out to the family that there are a number of vulnerable students in the school you are very worried about and it can help the school and others if permission is given to allow the cause of death to be stated publicly and that it might help prevent others going through such an ordeal. Can the family keep this a secret forever? What will happen at the inquest?


    1. When a suicide occurs one of the issues that teenagers can focus on is why? This can become obsessive and unhealthy. If the deceased had a history of mental issues and was in the health system, it might be useful to obtain permission from the family to divulge this to others as it would be a healthy step in helping them let go of the why?  Permission should not be sought and this issue should not be discussed with the family if family issues have contributed to the difficulties the deceased had. 


    1. The family may have found or been given a suicide note by the emergency services. Give the family an opportunity to discuss the contents with the school. This is particularly important if blame is apportioned to other students and/or teachers. Check with Gardaí if they have searched the deceased’s phone/tablet etc. and discuss any findings. If the Gardaí have found a note and the contents of the note may cause a difficulty, consult with Gardaí the best course of action. It might also be necessary to check if e-mails, photographs, or messages have been posted on social networks by the deceased. This may require the help of family or friends. 


    Vulnerable Students


    It is necessary to identify vulnerable students both the new vulnerable (as a result of the incident) and old vulnerable (as a result of previous history). This may involve consultation with other staff. New and old vulnerable students may include, 

    1. Siblings in the same school.
    2. Cousins in the same school.
    3. Other relatives who attend the school.
    4. Those injured.
    5. Eye witnesses.
    6. Close friends in the deceased’s school. 
    7. Close friends in other schools (contact that school).
    8. Those who may have had contact with the deceased immediately prior to the death.
    9. Those who may have had a difficult relationship or negative interactions with the deceased.
    10. If the student was a senior student and acted as mentor/buddy to younger students, special attention needs to be given to these younger students and if necessary contact their parents. 
    11. Those who have suffered a previous bereavement, loss, or separation.
    12. Other vulnerable students may not necessarily have been close friends with the deceased but may be particularly hard hit. These may include those who have had previous emotional issues and these events can cause additional stress. These types of students may not have even known the deceased. This type of student can be the ‘quiet ones’ who do not display any obvious signs of distress, or those who, because of their previous experiences, quite readily let others know of their issues. 
    13. Very young students may only be beginning to realise the permanency of death, and their idea of life after death is still vague. They may have concerns about how the deceased is feeling or thinking in the grave. They may have a lot of questions about aspects of the death, e.g. how the person died, what they looked like, the funeral, heaven, coffins. They may think it is normal to die young or normal to take your own life -this needs to be corrected. Similar issues may arise with students with learning difficulties. 
    14. Be careful to keep an eye out for contagion of grief. This is where a person becomes upset, not because they knew the deceased or have had a previous issue/s, but become upset simply because others are. This can be a particular concern with younger years. 
    15. If a death of a teacher has taken place, other vulnerable students may be those who had a particularly close relationship with that teacher or those who had a difficult relationship with that teacher including staff.
    16. If a particular class/group had been giving a teacher a difficult time, this class/group may need particular attention in terms of group work to deal with such issues as guilt etc.


    Staff Meeting


    1. Hold a staff meeting which may include auxiliary staff and sports coaches. 
    2. There may be a need for two separate staff meetings to aid supervision.
    3. Information should be given to staff before students. 
    4. After delivering the news, give staff time to absorb the news and compose themselves. 
    5. If staff is absent, inform them by phone, not text. Similarly, if the news breaks outside school time, inform staff by using a phone call, not text. Do not leave a voice message giving details of the news, rather, leave a voice mail asking them to return the call as soon as they get the message.
    6. Impress on staff the need for consistency in what the students hear from staff. 
    7. Explain the plan for the day. 
    8. Discuss vulnerable students and ask for input from staff. 
    9. Invite/encourage staff to attend students’ assemblies. 
    10. Allow staff to share how they will address classes. If necessary, give staff suggestions as to how they might start their classes. Some staff that normally start the class with a prayer may expand on this to acknowledge the loss. Others who do not start the class with a prayer may choose their own words to mark the loss. 
    11. Advise staff to use their discretion as to when to restart teaching. Returning to the routine of teaching may actually act as a comfort to students. However, this should not be done without some form of acknowledgment of the loss – this can cause offence. After the acknowledgement, teachers can, if they wish, ask the students what they would like to do next, e.g. talk about how they feel, talk about the deceased, or talk amongst themselves or return to teaching. Experience shows that when students are given the choice (which itself helps them feel in control) they will opt for the comforting routine of teaching. Caution should be taken here. It may not be a good idea for students to attend 8/9 classes in one day that consist entirely of a discussion around events that have happened.
    12. Particular attention should be paid to staff members who may be particularly upset, or had a recent bereavement, or who are simply finding the events difficult. It may be necessary to arrange supervision to support these teachers or it may be necessary for a member of management helping to start that teacher’s class with him/her present. Consideration should also be given to trainee teachers who may not have the necessary experience to address a class grouping.
    13. Remind staff that if they are upset and anxious, students will become upset and anxious.                    If staff are calm and considered, the students are more likely to remain calm. Also, if they are comfortable, calmly share their feelings with the class.
    14. It might be necessary to hold a staff meeting at the end of the day to review events. 


    Breaking News to Students


    1. Teenagers need to have whatever information is available so that they can dispel mistruths or speculation; otherwise they may not begin the grieving process.
    2. Remember that teenagers find it more helpful when adults are honest rather than ‘pretending’ to be more positive than they actually feel.
    3. Remember also that as a professional dealing with teenagers, you will have to confront your own reactions, your own shock, anger and sense of bewilderment. Get yourself grounded or it will be easy to get caught up in the teenagers’ panic, pain and confusion. 
    4. Your calmness will influence their reactions. If the adults are anxious and upset they will become so. If the adults are calm and in control it will promote calmness and stability. 
    5. When breaking the news to students, whole school assemblies are not recommended and best practice is that the news should be shared in small groups such as year groups. 
    6. If the deceased was on a team or involved with a particular [formal] group within the school, do not treat this group separately when breaking the news. 
    7. It may be necessary to take aside some individuals and tell them in private. It may also be necessary to phone these students’ parents to come and collect them from school.
    8. Be conscious of the fact that teenagers, particularly those in the senior years, have friendships that cross other year groups. Therefore, if the student was in for example 5th year, speak to that year group first, then 6th years followed by 4th year. Then speak to the other year groups. 
    9. Even if the deceased was in 6th year, it is still necessary to speak to 1st years as they will hear the news anyway and it is best that they hear it in a controlled way from school management. This will ensure that all students have received the same information and accurate information. 
    10. It might also be useful if staff attend these assemblies so they will hear exactly what the students have been told ensuring continuity of message. 
    11. When speaking to different year groups, the language may have to be changed so that it is age appropriate.  
    12. Keep sentences short and avoid overly complicated medical terms. 
    13. It is instinctive to remind the students to ‘look out for each other.’ However, well-meaning this sentiment is, it can create problems. Some students may take this literally and feel, not only do they have to listen to the friend’s difficulty, but also solve them. Indeed, in some cases students with difficulties may exploit this this instruction. Therefore, it might be better to say to students ’watch other for each other, if someone is having difficulties point them in the right direction to those that can help, and don’t try and solves their problems.’                                                      
    14. If the cause of death is genuinely not known, let them know this. Use this fact to reinforce that if they hear any rumours about the cause of death, these rumours cannot be true as the medics and family do not even know. This is relevant when there may be a genuine sudden death. 
    15. Let them ask questions and if the answer is not known state this. Be conscious of the fact that asking of questions may simply be reassurance seeking rather than driven by the need for facts. When answering questions do not promise anything you cannot fulfil.
    16. Give them details of the plan for the day. This provides necessary structure.
    17. Give details of funeral arrangements or when the details will be known. Get back to them when the dates/times and other arrangements (e.g. guard of honour, dress code) are known.
    18. It may be necessary to cancel classes for certain year groups for a time during the day or for the rest of the day. This should not be done without having an alternative structured activity in place. This activity should be adult led, structured and if possible have a structure that is familiar to the students, e.g. a prayer service. 
    19. This formal activity can be followed by an informal activity such as food in the school canteen. 
    20. A quiet room should also be provided.
    21. Arrange extra supervision in particular corridors/school yard/near toilets near the affected year group.
    22. Staff should be on hand to allow individual students talk in private.
    23. If, after the assembly, some students are particularly upset, it might be necessary to telephone parents to bring them home.
    24. Consider if it is appropriate to resume class (for structure-based reasons rather than academic reason even if teaching is not resumed). 
    25. Consider obtaining the help of clergy with the delivery of the above or help with constructing a script.
    26. Consider holding private meetings with, close friends of the deceased, school/class captains/prefect, and positive leaders (who may not have a formal title/job) in the year group. Such a meeting or number of meetings can help the students feel listened to, and that they have some sense of input and control over what is happening. In addition, these meetings can also provide useful feedback to management that may help shape the next few days/weeks. 
    27. It may be necessary to consult with outside agencies. It needs to be remembered that students need to be with people they know and trust. If at all possible, it is better that teachers and other school staff provide support for the students. The external ‘expert’ should be primarily used to advise and support school staff.
    28. Consider if students with special needs may need an altered method of delivery of the news.
    29. If necessary, provide condolence books (one for each individual, if more than one) on school premises.


    Breaking News to Students – In the case of suicide

    1. If the death was suicide, and if the family have given permission to inform others that it was a suicide, it is recommended that attention be paid to the phrases used. 

    *The word ‘commit’ has connotations associated with ‘committing a sin’ or ‘committing a crime’.

    2. In some cases, the wider student body may know that it was a suicide but are speculating about the method used. This can be very unhealthy if it is a topic of discussion, gossip, a distraction, a source of false rumour and a block to normal grieving. Some argue that details of the method of suicide should not be provided while others state that it is okay to give the basic fact about the method in a short a phrase as possible without giving graphic or excessive details or talking about it at length. However, extreme caution needs to be taken. This should not be done to satisfy curiosity, but rather to remove it as the main focus of conversation and to avoid it becoming an issue. Other factors that may determine the method of suicide being stated are the actual nature/method itself and the age of the affected year group/s. If it is to be spoken about perhaps it should only be done in smaller private groups or with the friends of the deceased only.  


    3. When a suicide occurs one of the issues that teenagers can focus on is why? This can become obsessive and unhealthy. If the deceased had a history of mental issues and was in the health system, and permission has been obtained from the family, it might be useful to others to hear this portion of the back story to the death. This might help to avoid speculation and help the students move on from the why? The back story should not be discussed if family circumstance contributed to the deceased’s difficulties. If there is no back story, and the suicide was ‘out of the blue’ extra difficulties may be faced by the friends of the deceased. However, remember that best practice is not to include speculation over motives as it is always very complex. 


    4. If the family have not given permission for the cause of death to be disclosed, this can be included in what is said to the students by stating that the ‘family have requested that the information not be shared’ or ‘only the family have the right to tell people that information’.

    5. It might be necessary to acknowledge to the students that there are rumours of suicide but also to state that ‘rumours can be hurtful to family and explain the damaging impact of misinformation and rumour’.  


    6. It might be useful to use the terms ‘tragic death’ or ‘sudden death’.


    7. Throughout all interactions with students be careful not to give the deceased attention in death that they may have been looking for in life. This can be done by shifting the conversation with teenagers from the topic of the deceased to their reaction to what has happened. This should result in students taking about themselves rather the deceased. 

    8. The most significant factor contributing to suicide contagion appears to be the glamourizing or romanticising of suicide. When the person who died by suicide was highly regarded or their death is ‘celebrated’ others involved can see the outcome of suicide as rewarding e.g. ends pain, gains recognition.  Therefore, avoid phrases such as the ‘state of peace’ the deceased may have found through death and avoid glamorising their lives or indeed any aspect of the funeral or any memorial. It is common for people to remember the positive things about someone who has recently died and focus less on the difficulties they may have been having prior to their death. While this may be well-meaning, it has the potential to encourage suicidal thoughts and behaviour in other vulnerable young people. Care needs to be taken not to give the impression that suicide has a positive outcome for the young person. 


    9. Suicide rates go up following an increase in the frequency of stories about suicide. Moreover, suicide rates go down following a decrease in frequency of stories about suicide.  Research shows that inappropriate media coverage can also contribute to suicide contagion. In Vienna there was a dramatic increase in subway suicides between 1984 and 1987. The figure dropped by 75% when the media stopped covering the story. Therefore, if it is necessary, media guidelines for reporting suicide should be consulted.

    Medium term actions – (Day 2 and following days)

    Follow-up – beyond 72 hours

    Strategic Planning Formula:

    • Threat: what specific threat is the focus of intervention


    • Target: who needs assistance who does not


    • Type: what type of assistance do they need


    • Timing: When will assistance be most useful and when will circumstances allow it


    • Theme: what themes/ issues/ concerns should be considered to build the right intervention package e.g.: what happened, what will happen


    • Teams: what resources will it take to provide the right intervention at the right time


    Refer to NEPS ‘Responding to Critical Incidents Guidelines and Resource Materials for Schools’ for further resources

    Emergency Contact Numbers

    Sample Letters




    Announcement to media


    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 has 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.

    Sudden death/accident


    (School Contact Details) (School Crest) 

    Dear Parent/Guardian, 

    The school has experienced (the sudden death, accidental injury, etc.) of Name of student(s). We are deeply saddened by the deaths/events.
    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 he may like to discuss with you. It is important to give factual information that is age appropriate. 

    You can help your child by taking time to listen and by encouraging him to express feelings. All children are different and will express their feelings in different ways. It is not uncommon for children to have difficulty concentrating or 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 reaction. Over the course of the coming days, 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. 

    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. 

    Young people frequently turn to social media to see what others are saying, or to find out more. At these times it is important that you monitor their use and engage with them about what they read. We urge you to emphasise and reinforce the need to be extremely sensitive and careful about what they post.

     If you would like advice you may contact the following people at the school (details). 


    Principal’s signature



    Violent death

    Dear Parent/ Guardian, 

    I need to inform you about a very sad event that has happened. 

    A child/young person from the neighbourhood, the sister/ brother of (name of student), 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 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 in their support of students. 

    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.

    In these times, young people tend to turn to social media to see what others are saying, or to find out more. While social media can be of great consolation, we would urge you to reinforce the need to be extremely sensitive about what your son/daughter might post to others. 

    Our thoughts are with (family name) and with each of you. 


    Principal’s name



    Sample Media Statement and letter to parents


    No Interviews with Media 


    It is with profound sadness that the Board of Management, staff and students of Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh Secondary School, have learned of the tragic death of ………………………. 

    Our sincerest sympathy is extended to the family of N… 

    On hearing the tragic news, the Critical Incident Plan was put into immediate operation. The Critical Incident team convened a meeting to ensure that students affected by this loss as cared for adequately. Procedures are in place to ensure that all in the school community affected by this loss are given all the help they need to cope at this time. 

    The School is offering Counselling and support for students and parents affected by this tragedy. Prayer services have been held with each class in the school. 

    Our prayers and support are with everyone affected by this tragedy.






    ‘Responding to Critical Incidents NEPS Guidelines and Resource Materials for Schools’ 

    available on 

    The National Office for Suicide Prevention:

    Childline: 1800 666 666

    The Samaritans: 1850 60 90 90




    This Critical Incident Management Policy & Guidelines was revised in February 2024