September 20, 2018 • Athletic Administration

Creating an emergency plan for athletic programs

Part of the Boy Scout motto is to be prepared, and the same holds true for athletic administrators who must prepare emergency plans. At athletic events, there may be injuries or problems in the stands with disruptive fans. Lightning can strike during a contest and there may be a medical emergency with a spectator. And you might have to evacuate an indoor venue due to a fire, gas leak or power outage.

Are you ready for the contingencies that will arise?

To handle the various problems that may occur, you need an emergency plan. This is a document that outlines the steps to be taken and those responsible for each aspect of the plan. One standard plan does not adequately provide all of the specific details that are needed. Therefore, you should have a plan for each of your venues, because they’re all different and may have unique requirements.

The following are some suggestions to get you started preparing your emergency plans.

1. Seek help.

Ask for advice from your athletic trainer with regard to dealing with injuries and what must be included in your plan, because this is their area of expertise. If your athletic trainer attends games or practice sessions, they would be in charge. But, due to the number of home and away contests, provisions also have to be included for those times when your trainer is not present and a coach has to take the lead.

2. Designate a point person.

Outline who is responsible to call when an ambulance is needed. Also, indicate an individual who will meet the arriving ambulance at the entrance of your school to direct the driver where to go.

3. Include alternatives.

List alternative methods to transport injured athletes if an ambulance is unavailable or the field doesn’t have a suitable entry point. If you have a golf cart, Gator or a pickup truck, put these alternatives in your emergency plan. Include how they can be accessed and where the keys are located.

4. Coordinate with security.

Sit down with your school resource officer or the local police. These individuals are able to provide guidance for provisions with crowd control, including the number of personnel needed at athletic contests, their duties and where they should be stationed.

5. List phone numbers.

Include in your plans all of the pertinent phone numbers that you, coaches or game managers might need. Everyone is familiar with 911, but you should include contact information for bus dispatchers, drivers (depending upon your local procedures), administrators, custodians, grounds crew and other essential personnel.

6. Locate emergency equipment.

Indicate in your plan where the defibrillator is located. All personnel who are trained in its use need to know where this piece of equipment is located in each athletic venue.

7. Print copies.

Put copies of the emergency plan in each team’s medical kits, scorebook, locker rooms and refreshment stands so they are easily available. You want your coaches to have an understanding of what’s included in each plan, but it’s also wise to have printed copies available.

Also, make sure that copies of individual emergency information cards for all athletes are included in the teams’ medical kits. These cards provide the contact information for the parents of any injured athlete. This is vital to make the necessary transport and care arrangements.

8. Make announcements.

Prepare public address announcements to cover all the potential emergencies that may occur. A good resource for this purpose is the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association’s (NIAA) Leadership Training Course 625: Management of Game and Event Announcing. You can use the templates included in the course and tailor them to your settings.

9. Practice protocols.

Have all of your teams practice the protocols in your emergency plan in the same manner that schools do with fire and evacuation drills. Teams need to execute aspects of the plan to determine if they’re prepared to effectively handle an athletic emergency. If a mistake is made, they have a chance to learn before a real incident occurs (Sargent 2010).

10. Answer all questions.

As you write your plans, use the journalistic cues — who, what, when, why, where and how. By answering these simple questions, you’re providing all of the pertinent information that’s needed for someone to understand. And understanding is the key to effectively executing any strategy.

11. Constantly update.

Annually review and revise your athletic emergency plans. Simple little changes involving your athletic venues and the associated equipment, such as their condition and access, can alter the steps and details of your emergency guidelines. Your plans have to reflect these new developments to be effective.

Also, take a look at your guidelines after dealing with any emergency. It’s important to evaluate whether there was something different that could have been done in dealing with the situation. In many cases, it may be one simple detail that leads to an improved response.

12. Maintain digital records.

Keep a copy of each emergency plan on your computer. This makes the task of editing and revising the documents much easier. And don’t forget to back up these documents on a disk, flash drive or external hard drive. It can be maddening to lose a copy of these plans and have to start from scratch.

13. Inspect equipment.

Periodically check that all emergency supplies are in working order, that they are where they should be, and that replacement batteries are available. It’s helpful to have a prepared checklist for just this purpose. You want and need to be prepared.

What equipment might you need? Remember, all facilities vary. But you may need:

  • Extra batteries
  • Rope, Duck Tape
  • Traffic cones
  • A bull horn
  • A cell phone
  • Walkie talkies
  • Crutches
  • Splints
  • Ice
  • Blankets
  • Water

This is not intended to be an all-inclusive list. The nature of your athletic venues and emergencies should provide you with additional needs and ideas.

The more comprehensive your emergency plans, the better equipped you should be to handle the contingencies that may develop at your venues. And always hope that you don’t have to use your plans, regardless of how good they are.

David Hoch, CMAA, has 16 years of experience as a high school athletic director and served for 12 years as the executive director of the Maryland State Coaches Association. In 2000, he was named Athletic Director of the Year by the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association. His column, A.D.ministration, focuses on issues in athletic administration and appears regularly in Coach & Athletic Director magazine.


Sargent, J.  Conducting an Emergency Plan Drill.  High School Today.  March 2010, pp. 20-21.

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