Preparing for Emergencies

Secondary tabs

    Summary

    Emergencies can happen any time. Being prepared for potential emergencies can help you keep children safe and stay calm during stressful situations. This lesson will focus on helping you plan, organize, and practice evacuation/ emergency procedures in advance. This includes contingency procedures such as tornadoes, terrorist threats, epidemics, and other emergencies.

    Objectives
    • Identify types of emergencies that may occur in a preschool classroom.
    • Recognize types of disasters that may be unique to program location.
    • Distinguish the difference between an emergency and a disaster.
    • Create a written emergency plan for your program.
    • Practice your program’s emergency plan.

    Learn

    Learn

    Know

    Natural disasters, illnesses, injuries, or threats of violence can shatter the daily routine of a child care program. As teachers and caregivers, it is our job to keep children safe during these difficult events. We can also be a resource and comfort to families and communities that are struggling.

    Types of Emergencies and Knowing Your Risk

    One of the first steps in responding to emergencies is understanding the types of disasters that might affect you and the children in your care.

    From time to time, unusual events happen that require you to respond quickly. If there is the potential for injury, harm, or loss of life, these events are emergencies. Emergencies might affect your classroom, program, local area, region, or the entire country. Examples of emergencies that typically affect child development programs are:

    • Injuries: Children and staff may experience bodily harm while in your program. This may result from falls, accidents, or contact with poisonous substances.
    • Inclement weather: Snow, ice, or extreme heat can impact the safety of children and families.
    • Technology failure: Electricity or water outages can impact the way your program operates.
    • Missing child: This type of emergency occurs when a child leaves or is taken from the program without authorization.

    When emergencies are more severe, affect a larger number of people, or present a stronger risk, they can be thought of as disasters. Disasters come in all shapes and sizes. The type of disaster you are likely to encounter depends on the many characteristics of the region in which you live. There are several types of disasters that might affect child care programs:

    1. Natural disasters:
      This type of disaster includes flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, forest fires, wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, or other similar events.
    2. Technological:
      This type of disaster includes explosions, nuclear fallout, severe power or gas outages, drinking water shortages, oil spills, or fires.
    3. Terrorism:
      This type of disaster includes acts of violence or threats of violence against individuals or groups. Examples may include bombings, shootings, kidnappings, hijacking, or use of biological weapons.
    4. Illness or epidemic:
      This type of disaster involves the rapid spread of severe, potentially deadly illnesses like the flu.

    It is important for you and your team to understand the types of emergencies you are likely to face. Certain natural disasters, in particular, are more likely to affect certain regions of the country or world.

    It is also important to remember that not all emergencies are disasters. It is very likely that your program will experience common emergencies like inclement weather, failure of electricity or water, or injuries on the playground. You must be prepared to respond to all emergencies large and small.

    See

    What does emergency preparation look like? Watch how this program prepares for disasters in their area.

    As you watch this video, listen to how Ms. Helen talks to children about safety, fear, and preparedness.

    Talking to Children about Emergencies

    Watch as Helen talks to her children during a tornado drill.

    Do

    Making a Plan

    The most important thing you can do to prepare for an emergency is make a plan. This plan should be in writing. All staff and families should know about the plan.

    Your plan helps you answer questions like:

    • Where will children be relocated?
    • Have alternate sites been identified and arranged in advance?
    • How will you relocate children if emergency occurred during normal operating hours?
    • How will parents be notified?
    • What are individual staff member responsibilities?

    Your emergency plan may also contain information about the following situations:

    Evacuation plans: You need to know where to go in the event of a tornado, fire, earthquake, or other natural disaster. You also need to have a plan for how and where you will transport children if your area is evacuated for flooding, technological disasters, or other reasons. These plans should be posted in the classroom.

    Shelter in place plans: You need to know what to do if administrators or government officials order individuals to take shelter. This is the likely response to a terrorist threat, a shooter in the vicinity, risky weather conditions, or other unsafe conditions. While sheltered in place, you will not be allowed to leave the building and others will not be allowed to enter the building. Shelter in place plans should be posted in the classroom. As part of this plan, your team should also have a way of communicating that teams must take shelter and communicating with one another while sheltered in place. Unsafe situations may make it impossible to move about the building.

    Lock-down plans: You need to know what to do if your classroom is ordered to lock down. Lockdowns occur in the event of an unknown intruder or active shooter. You must know how to lock and barricade your doors and procedures for supervising children.

    Communicating with other staff: Disaster can strike at any time. Know the chain of communication for emergencies and have updated staff phone rosters at home. You need to know how you will contact your administrator if you cannot come to work. You also need to know how you will find out if your program is closed or relocated due to disasters. Remember telephone lines may be affected by emergencies. Administrators or others may consider leaving an outgoing message on their answering machines or voice mails and communicating via the media.

    Communicating with families: You need to know how you will communicate with families if you and the children are evacuated to another location. How will you let families know where they can find their children? It is also important to know how you will let families know if your program is forced to close. Part of the plan should include who will contact families, what will be communicated, and how ratio will be maintained.

    You should keep a copy of your program's emergency response plan in each classroom for reference.

    In the Apply section, you will find a guide for helping you learn about the emergency plans in your program.

    Practicing Your Plan

    Once a plan is in place, practicing it can help relieve anxiety and help you feel prepared should the real event occur. It can also help you and the children remain calm in the face of disaster. Remember to always take your sign-in sheet, emergency medications, and emergency contact information with you during all evacuations and practices. Your evacuation plans (fire, tornado, lockdown) should be practiced at least monthly. Other emergency plans should be practiced at least yearly. Review of your emergency plan and evacuation plan must be included in new employee orientation and training.

    Explore

    Explore

    Disasters can happen anytime and anywhere. It is important to be prepared. Print out the Creating a Kit Activity. Fill it out based on your program. Share your responses with your supervisor or coach. Then compare your answers to the suggested responses.

    Exercises & Resources

    Apply

    Apply

    Use these forms to help you prepare and respond to emergency situations. Print the forms and complete the information that you need. Store the forms in your emergency kit.

    Exercises & Resources

    Glossary

    TermDescription
    EpidemicEpidemic describes an illness that affects a large portion of the population. An epidemic of influenza is an example that could be debilitating to business, schools, communities, and families
    EvacuationEvacuation is the act of clearing all children, staff, and families from a specific location
    ProvisionsProvisions are food and water resources sufficient to maintain the health of your population for a designated period of time
    Shelter in placeShelter in place occurs when you are directed to stay in one location during an emergency. Movement within the building may be restricted, or travel in the larger community may be limited

    Demonstrate

    Demonstrate
    Assessment

    Q1

    What type of emergency involves explosions, nuclear fallout, gas leaks, or chemical spills?

    Q2

    Which of the following emergency responses is most likely in the case of an intruder entering the building?

    Q3

    What must you do to be ready for an emergency in your child development program?

    References & Resources

    American Academy of Pediatrics (no date). Children & Disasters: Disaster preparedness to meet children's needs website. Available at http://www.aap.org/disasters/pandemic-flu-cc.cfm

    American Academy Of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education (2011). Caring for Our Children: National health and safety performance standards; Guidelines for early care and education programs. 3rd edition. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; Washington, DC: American Public Health Association. Also available at http://nrckids.org.

    Child Care Aware America of America (formerly National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies;2011). Is your Child Care Program Ready? A Disaster Planning Guide for Child Care Centers and Family Child Care Homes. Available for purchase from http://www.naccrra.org/publications/

    Federal Emergency Management Agency.  http://www.ready.gov - http://www.fema.gov

    National Association for the Education of Young Children (2007). Early Childhood Program Standards and Accreditation Criteria: The mark of quality in early childhood education. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

    The Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness (2012). Emergency Family Assistance Centers: An Examination of the Literature for Evidence-Informed Practices. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University. http://www.militaryfamilies.psu.edu/