What is an “Emergency Response Protocol”?

An Emergency Response Protocol is a plan that can be developed for a student eligible for special education, if the district and parents agree that advance planning for possible emergencies is needed.

An Emergency Response Protocol could include information about the student’s health, medical or sensory needs, and any special precautions that would need to be taken if restraint or isolation were considered necessary.

In 2015, Washington state law changed to prohibit IEP and 504 teams from planning ahead to use restraint or isolation, unless a student's individual needs require more specific advanced educational planning and the student's parent or guardian agrees. Families and educators were concerned that allowing schools to plan on using restraint and isolation might increase the possibility of overuse.   

Currently, the law allows for advance planning for the use of these emergency measures only if a school district and a parent both agree that it is necessary.    

The district cannot require a parent to consent to an Emergency Response Protocol.

A parent’s refusal to sign or consent to an Emergency Response Protocol does not necessarily mean a child will not be restrained or isolated. A school could still use restraint or isolation, if necessary, in an emergency, to prevent an imminent likelihood of serious harm.

If a parent and a district do agree to develop an Emergency Response Protocol, the parent must give signed written consent for these protocols to be used. Even if the parent and district agree to an Emergency Response Protocol, the use of restraint or isolation is still only allowed when necessary to prevent an imminent likelihood of serious harm. Also, the school must still notify the parents of every incident of restraint or isolation within 24 hours (verbally) and within 5 business days (in writing). 

An Emergency Response Protocol cannot take the place of a positive Behavioral Intervention Plan.

Any student whose IEP includes an Emergency Response Protocol should also have a Behavioral Intervention Plan. The student’s IEP team should be actively working to reduce or eliminate any need for restraint or isolation. If restraint or isolation does occur, the team must take the follow up steps to review the incident and talk about how any further need for restraint or isolation could be prevented

See Question 13 for ideas on problem-solving when a student is repeatedly restrained or isolated.  

OSPI has developed a model Emergency Response Protocol form. You can find it on OSPI’s Model forms for Special Education page: https://ospi.k12.wa.us/student-success/special-education/program-improvement/model-forms-services-students-special-education.   

You can read more about strategies to address behavior, including functional behavior assessments and behavior intervention plans on OEO’s Functional Behavior Assessments and Behavior Intervention Plans page: https://oeo.wa.gov/en/education-issues/supports-students-disabilities/functional-behavioral-assessments-behavior.