Most children spend seven or more hours of the day at school. Because a disaster could occur at any time, there is a good chance that an emergency may arise while your children are still in class. In such a case, you hope that your school and school personnel are prepared to handle any emergency with a plan to keep your kids safe.
Check on Your School’s Emergency Plan
Knowing exactly how your school will handle various emergencies and what your role is as a parent during this time will go a long way in ensuring the safety and well-being, both physical and emotional, of your children.
For example, the usual school policy in the event of a major emergency is to either release students early if a natural disaster is predicted, or to keep children at school until a parent or designated adult picks them up. Which policy has your school adopted? Make sure that the school has updated emergency contact information for you and at least two other adults. Find out what the policy is for pick up authorization in event that you cannot get to your child and must send someone else.
During a disaster, school personnel become the first responders. Make sure that your school’s plan is clear and that staff is educated and trained. If not, refer your school principal to government disaster guidelines for schools, such as the one on the FEMA website.
Schools should also have adequate emergency supplies. For example, a school can more closely monitor the weather if they have a NOAA weather radio. At a cost of only $30-$40, you may want to donate this type of unit to your school if needed or head a committee on emergency supplies.
Many, but not all, states require specific disaster preparedness activities in their school systems. Learn what is required for your school.
Preparedness Starts at Home
You can take some steps to prepare your own children at home. Make sure they know what to do if there is an emergency at school. Prepare them for what might happen and stress the fact that their job is to stay alert and listen carefully to what their teachers and other school staff tell them to do. Assure them that you will meet them as soon as it is safe and you are able, and that they will be in good hands until then.
Pack extra emergency snacks and a bottle of water in your child’s back pack each morning, just in case.
Parents with special skills can be recruited to help in an emergency, especially if they are within walking distance of the school.
While preparing for an emergency at home is important, it is equally important that you make sure that your children’s school is also prepared for a disaster.