Cnoc an Chonnaidh, Muineachán, H18 W897

+353 (0) 47 72344



A critical incident is any incident, which overwhelms the normal coping mechanisms of the school and disrupts the running of the school eg.

  • Death or imminent death of a staff member or pupil
  • An accident involving pupils or staff on or off the school premises
  • A physical attack on a member of staff or pupil
  • Serious damage to the school building through fire or vandalism
  • Disappearance of a staff member or pupil
  • An accident or tragedy in the community

Administrative Tasks

A list of telephone numbers for students, parents, guardians and teachers will be available and telephone numbers of the emergency services will be displayed in the staff room and Principal’s office.  Emergency information will be compiled for school tours.  This information will include the following: list of all students/staff involved and teacher in charge, a list of mobile phone numbers for the accompanying teachers and up to date information on pupils with allergies, epilepsy etc.

If a critical incident happens we will liase with the external agencies: emergency services, Department of Education and Skills, NEPS and the Health Service Executive.  We will also liase with parents, distressed visitors and the media. Within the school care will be taken of the staff, the students in general and the students more immediately involved or affected.

A telephone line will be kept free for outgoing and important incoming calls.  Rooms will be made available for debriefing parents, counselling parents and quiet room.  All events, letters to parents and telephone calls made and received will be logged. The normal everyday business of the school will continue to be dealt with and a normal routine will be maintained as far as possible for classes not immediately affected by the incident.

Procedures to be followed in the event of Critical Incidents

Short term Actions (1st Day)

It is important to obtain accurate information about the incident – otherwise rumours will take over and add to the distress of those involved.  We will seek the following information: what happened, where and when, what is the extent of the injuries, where are those who are injured and those who are not injured, how many are involved and what are their names, is there a risk of further injury and what agencies have been contacted already.

Then the appropriate agencies will be contacted: emergency services, medical services, Health Service Executive Psychology Departments, NEPS, Board of Management, Cavan Monaghan ETB and Department of Education and Skills.

The teaching staff will be informed as soon as possible.  A folder containing the contact numbers for teachers, parents, chairman of the Board of Management, Chief Executive of Cavan Monaghan ETB as well as the emergency services will be available on the top shelf in the Staffroom.  Contact numbers for teachers’ next of kin will also be available in this folder.  Regarding school tours, the school will provide the teacher in charge of the tour with a mobile phone. The teacher in charge should bring the folder with the contact numbers and the mobile phone with him on the tour.

Critical Incident Team

The following are the members of the Coláiste Oiriall Critical Incident team; Brendan Ó Dufaigh (leader), Annette Ní Thuathail, Donna Ní Ghallchobhair, Bríd Ní Bhraoin, Diarmuid Mac Cionna and Aoife Uí Leannáin.

A meeting of the above team will be convened.  The following topics will be covered at the meeting:

  • Agreeing a statement of the facts for staff, students, parents and the media.  A written version of this will be available.
  • Delegating responsibilities to the team members. Some duties are already allocated to team members.
  • Appointing someone to handle phone enquiries and to deal with the media.
  • Ensuring that a phone line remains open and available for enquires
  • Organising the timetable for the day
  • Organise a staff meeting
  • Organising the supervision of students during staff meeting

A staff meeting will be convened.  We will give an account of the facts as known and we will give an opportunity to staff to express their views and their feelings. We will have a discussion with staff about how the facts will be shared with the students and will agree an approach. An outline of the day’s timetable will be agreed.  Staff will be informed about which outside agencies have been contacted or are involved and the supports that will be put in place for both students and staff.  We will help teachers to prepare themselves to tell the news to the students.  We will work out a procedure for identifying vulnerable students.

Relevant handout materials will be distributed to staff.  Very useful resource documents are available at the back of the Advice and Information Pack for Schools, entitled Responding to Critical Incidents that was published by the National Educational Psychological Service on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills.  A copy of this information pack will be available in the Principal’s Office.

If the critical incident happens outside of school hours or during holidays the Principal or someone acting on his behalf will inform all staff members.  A meeting of the Critical Incident team will be convened and later a staff meeting will be convened if appropriate.

Informing parents/guardians

We will contact parents as soon as possible.  It will be agreed who should share information with parents and how this should be done.  We will give relevant and factual information to parents/guardians.  We will set a room aside for distressed students to meet their parents/guardians and we will provide support to parents who are on their own when they arrive in school.

We will inform parents of other children in the school of the incident and that their child may be upset.  We will send a letter to parents stating the facts and brief details of the incident.  It may not be appropriate at this point to disclose the names of those involved.

Informing students

We will tell close friends and relatives of the deceased first in a private location with a number of members of the Critical Incident team being present.  We will then tell the class of the deceased with members of the Critical Incident team being present also.  Then we will tell each class group individually as opposed to a general school assembly format.  A prayer for the deceased would be appropriate.

We understand that the suitability of the ‘messenger’ is important as it is believed that support is best given by adults known to the children.  An outside expert might help by assisting the people undertaking this task to prepare for it and by providing ongoing advice and support as they manage it. 

We will ensure to give facts and avoid speculation.  This will help to dispel rumours, which can cause unnecessary stress.  We will allow pupils to ask questions, tell their stories and express feelings.  We will help students to realise that overwhelming emotions are natural and normal following a critical incident.  A prayer service will be organised at some time during the day for the class of the deceased or for the entire school.  We will inform students that their parents/guardians will be collecting them as soon as possible.

Principal dealing with the media

The Principal will prepare a written statement for the media that will include the facts about the incident, what has been done already, what is going to be done and positive information or comments about the deceased person.  If the school is requested to give a live interview the Principal will undertake this role. We will spend some time preparing for the interview. 

We will keep the interview simple and short and factual.  If we are not ready or if we think it inappropriate we will decline the interview.  A room will be made available to the media and this may help to control their access to staff and students.  Students and staff will be strongly advised not to facilitate the media.

Medium Term Actions (24 – 72 hours)


A review will take place of the events of the first 24 hours.  The Critical Incident team will reconvene and we will check out how each person on this team is coping.  We will decide arrangements for support meetings for parents, staff and students.  We will decide on a mechanism for feedback from teachers on vulnerable students.  We will ensure that all staff are kept up to date on any developments – we may have a review staff meeting.  We will be sensitive as to how all staff are coping on a personal and professional level and we will establish contact with absent staff and students.

Arranging support

We will provide a suitable room for individual students, groups of students and parents and we will hold a support or information meeting for parents or for students in order to clarify what has happened.  We will offer advice and assurance and inform them about support services and we will distribute appropriate handouts.  In consultation with outside agencies we will organise individual or group debriefings or support meetings with parental permission.  Parental consent is necessary.

We will plan for the reintegration of students and staff.  A person will be named to liase with absentees, injured, brothers, sisters or close relatives. We will name a person to visit the house or houses of the injured and to visit the hospital. 

We will liase with the family regarding funeral arrangements.  We will designate a staff member to liase with the family, to extend sympathy and to clarify the family’s wishes regarding the school’s involvement in the funeral.  The school will decide attendance and participation at the funeral in accordance with parents’ wishes and school management decisions.  We will arrange a home visit by two staff representatives within 24 hours.  We will ask Cavan Monaghan ETB to make a decision about school closure.

Longer Term Actions

We will monitor students for signs of continuing distress as a result of the incident.  If over a prolonged period of time, a student continues to display the following he may need help from the Health Service Executive: uncharacteristic behaviour, deterioration in academic performance, weight change, tiredness, restlessness or increased absenteeism.


We will evaluate the response to the incident and amend the Critical Incident Plan if necessary.  We will ask ourselves the following questions:

  • What went well?
  • Where were the gaps?
  • What was most/least helpful?
  • Have all necessary onward referrals to support services been made?
  • Is there any unfinished business?

We will ensure that new staff members will be aware of the school policy and procedures regarding a critical incident.  We will also ensure that they will be aware of which pupils were affected by the incident and in what way.

We will be sensitive to special days and events.  Anniversaries may trigger emotional responses in students or in staff and they may need additional support at this time.  We will acknowledge the anniversary with the family and liase on any proposed commemoration.  We will be sensitive to significant days like Birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.


We will not use the term ‘suicide’ until it has been established categorically that the student’s or teacher’s death was as a result of suicide.  We will use the phrase ‘tragic death’ or ‘sudden death’ instead.  We will contact the family to establish the exact facts and the family’s wishes about how the death should be described.

We will give the facts to the students as we know them and we will create a safe and supportive space for the students where they can share their reactions and feelings.  We will advise them on their possible reactions over the next few days.  We will be careful to avoid glorifying the victim and sensationalising the suicide.  We will advise the students of the support available to them and we will take any talk of suicide seriously and provide support or refer on to a trained person immediately. 

Where there is a serious question mark or concern about a student, then referral should be made to a person trained in risk assessment.  A member of the Critical Incident team will have a sensitive conversation with the student.  The conversation will be direct and open.  If a student has been reported to be talking about suicide we will ask him the following questions:

  • “Is he thinking about killing himself?”
  • “Has he attempted suicide before?”
  • “Has he experienced serious personal and family difficulties?”
  • “Has he experienced major physical or emotional difficulties?”
  • “Has he a plan to carry out the act?”
  • “Does he have the means and place to do it?”

The greater the number of “Yes” answers, the higher the risk and the greater the need for immediate onward referral of the student.  We will inform the parents at once and ask them to bring the student to their GP or to another service.  We understand that were are obliged to inform parents, even without the student’s consent, if the student is under 18 years.

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Cnoc an Chonnaidh, Muineachán, H18 W897  +353-(0) 47 72344