Check on the school emergency plan of any school-age children you may have. You need to know that they keep children at school until a parent or designated adult can pick them up. Be sure that the school has updated information about how to reach parents and responsible caregivers to arrange for pickup. If you are not able to pick up your child, ask what type of authorization the school may require to release a child into the custody of someone you designate.
- During an emergency, school personnel become emergency responders.
- No matter what the emergency the same people will be carrying out the same tasks and functions.
- Plans must be user friendly and team built.
- All personnel, including students and parents, must know their roles in advance.
- By conducting drills and exercises, these roles and procedures are tested and refined.
Each school should develop plans that include teaching students and staff what to do during disasters that are likely to occur in their area. The “FEMA for Kids” Website: www.ready.gov/kids includes curriculum that teachers can use, as well as stories, activities and games to make disaster preparedness appealing to youngsters.
Schools also need to plan ahead to determine when and whether they will release students. Children should not be let out to wait for the bus during lightning storms, for example. During heavy rain with flashflood watches or warning, schools should have written guidelines about the release of students. School buses can be swept away by as little as 6 inches of water, thus releasing students may put them at greater risk than keeping them in the safety of your buildings. School staff can monitor weather conditions better if each school has a NOAA weather radio, which costs only about $30 or $40.
It is important to bring parents into the planning process. They will feel more comfortable if they know you have a plan and understand how it works. It's also important for them to understand emergency actions you may take, such as restricting to whom students are released following a disaster. Reminders should be sent out at the beginning of each school year. Parents with special skills may also be recruited as emergency volunteers - particularly if they live within walking distance. Parents who are doctors, nurses, telecommunications experts, machinists or electricians may be particularly helpful. And don't forget to also include members of your surrounding community. Schools don't exist in a vacuum, and during a disaster, they may be looked upon as a vital recovery element by the community. Your plan should take into account this possibility.
There is much that can be done by school officials to plan for disaster, to mitigate the risk, to protect the safety of students and educators, and to ensure that schools recover quickly. The key, though, is timing. While local, state and federal emergency management stand ready to mobilize when necessary to help communities pick up the pieces and recover, it's preferable to expend energy LONG BEFORE the disaster.
Schools, day care centers and colleges need to prepare for a major disaster. In such an event, school administrators and teachers will have to be self-sufficient--relying on their own resources to protect and care for the student population and the immediate surrounding communities until outside assistance is available.
Your school can take part by:
- Conducting a school drill to test emergency plans and procedures. Make sure you test communications systems, evacuation plans, search and rescue activities and first aid techniques. (For planning assistance, contact your city or county Office of Emergency Services.)
- Sending information home for parents on the school's emergency policies and procedures.
- Updating information on "emergency notification cards."
- Conducting in-service training workshops on first aid, shelter management, damage assessment and other related topics for school staff.
- Dedicating a special class or school assembly concerning the importance of proper preparation.
- Displaying preparedness information at high traffic areas in your school.
- Assembling emergency kits which include important safety information and first aid supplies.
Adapted from County of Santa Clara, CA.