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The purpose of a safety plan is in its name. It is a plan for safety, but it has a number of different applications. It can refer to keeping an actual place such as a school or a workplace safe. It is also used to describe a plan that is created in an effort to prevent suicide or domestic violence.
Schools and Workplaces
Safety plans for schools, workplaces and other institutions, such as hospitals, must include preparations for a variety of situations ranging from a situation with a violent individual to natural disasters such as severe storms or earthquakes to fires or medical emergencies. These safety plans will vary according to location and likely threats. They also may need to be compliant with state and local guidelines. However, most will have a few elements in common. They generally include a written emergency program aimed at keeping everyone safe, plans for evacuation, an alarm system and drills that help people practice how to handle an emergency.
One challenge in creating a safety plan in these types of environments is making sure that people are well-acquainted with procedure without creating a sense of undue alarm or insecurity. It is important to address people's fears and keep them proportionate, reminding them that safety planning is very important and that the emergencies that make them necessary are unlikely to occur.
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A safety plan can also be developed by a person who struggles with suicidal thoughts. Safety plans for suicide are often used in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a type of therapy that helps people control and redirect harmful thought processes. The purpose of safety planning, in this case, is two-fold. It results in the creation of a usable and effective plan that can help with suicide prevention, but it also empowers its creator. According to the New York Times, safety planning for suicide prevention identifies warning signs that the person is slipping into depression, lists remedies that the person has found effective in the past, and includes contact information for people and organizations that can help.
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Domestic abuse counseling advises creating safety plans for people who are in a dangerous relationship. Safety planning may address how to remain safe while in the relationship, while leaving and after leaving. Elements such as whether there are children or pets or whether the person is pregnant all play a part in safety planning as do other specifics about the situation. Items in safety plans for domestic abuse may include identifying safe places in the house as well as in the community, creating a safety packing list or even packing and hiding a bag, identifying escape routes, gathering any necessary documents and protecting online accounts. A professional in domestic abuse counseling may assist a person in creating a safety plan.
Nearly everyone can benefit from creating some kind of safety plan that is specific to individual situations and risks. While it is likely that most safety plans will never be used, having one may mean surviving an emergency situation relatively unscathed.