The most important goals of National Cheerleading Safety Month are education and awareness. Throughout the month, we will be focusing on ways to get the most of the amazing activity of cheerleading while minimizing the risk of injury. It’s more fun when you’re safe!

There may be no more important component of your safety program than a well-executed emergency action plan.

Even when all of the rules and safety progressions are being followed, there will always be a risk of injury due to activity or even to a non-cheer related issue such as cardiac arrest. An emergency action plan, or EAP, will ensure that proper treatment is available as soon as possible in order to have the best outcome.

A good EAP will be properly prepared, planned, and practiced.

Prepare by making sure you take note of all of the assets you have available. Is there a phone readily available? Do you have an athletic trainer or school nurse available, and where are they located during practice? Be sure to gather your school’s address, along with noting how emergency responders would be able to access your facility at the time of your practice. Who with your coaching staff has CPR or AED training?

Once you gather all of this information, it’s time to actually write down a plan. This plan will detail who on the team will be responsible for each of the tasks; calling 9-1-1, reaching out to on-site medical help, directing emergency responders, securing the facility, etc. Each task should have two people assigned to it, in the event that one of them is the injured party. One of the coaches should always stay with the injured person.

Finally, these procedures must be practiced in order to be effective. The entire team should go through an EAP drill just as they would go through any type of emergency drill, with each party going through their steps (without actually calling 9-1-1 of course.)  Doing so will allow everyone a chance to understand their role and will also show any potential problems. For example, the plan might call for a particular entrance for the emergency personnel, but when practiced, it might be revealed that that access is blocked by a chain or gate during practice hours.   Make any necessary adjustments and practice until the team is proficient and everyone understands their responsibility.

Having an emergency action plan in place is like insurance; you hope you never need to use it, but if you ever need to use it, you will appreciate having it.

For a more detailed EAP, including video and sample directions, visit