Disaster can strike anyone, anywhere at anytime. It seems we’re learning this lesson over and over again more and more frequently these days. Whether it’s a natural disaster, a terrorist attack or mass shooting, a nuclear threat or any number of other potential hazards, more and more people are learning the importance of being prepared for anything in this volatile world.
But the focus on preparedness is still placed firmly on the home. Preppers typically concentrate on building up their supplies at home and being ready to bug out if needed. And even if you don’t consider yourself a prepper, it’s still recommended that you have at least 72 hours (3 days) worth of emergency food and supplies to help get you and your family through an emergency. The problem with all of this is that it’s based on the assumption that you and your family will all be together if and when disaster does strike.
What if your kids are at school when the worst happens? While some of us are lucky enough to be home with our kids or be homeschooling them, many of us work outside the home and/or have children in public or private schools or daycare. Imagine a catastrophe happens while your children are away from you at school or daycare. How do you prepare them (and yourself) for this scenario?
As a teacher as well as a mother, homesteader and “prepper,” I am always concerned with emergency preparedness at school. After all, kids are typically at school for at least 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. Odds are relatively high that they will be at school when an emergency happens.
As a teacher, I know that I need to be prepared to care for my students in an emergency, and I would hope that you all can count on your kids’ teachers to do the same. But there are steps you can take as a parent to help prepare your children for an emergency at school. Here are my top 5 suggestions:
5 Ways to Prepare Your Kids for an Emergency at School
1. Know Your School’s Emergency Protocols
All schools have certain protocol that they follow in the event of an emergency. Find out what it is. Where on the school grounds do students and teachers meet if they need to evacuate? What do they learn to do in drills? What is the protocol for different emergency scenarios (ie. fire, earthquake, flood, shooting, etc.)? How will parents be contacted/make contact with their children in the event of an emergency? What type of emergency supplies are kept at the school? Which staff members have First Aid training?
Knowing your school’s emergency protocols will empower you and your children as you will know what to expect and can discuss this more at home with your kids. It will also give you peace of mind knowing there are competent staff members ready to care for your children in an emergency. And of course, if you have any concerns, this should allow you ample time to address them before something does happen.
2. Have Your School’s Information Handy
Along with knowing your school’s protocol, you should definitely have all of the school information handy in case you need to reach someone in an emergency or send help. What is the office phone number? What’s the address? What’s the name of the principal, teachers, secretary, etc.
Also, know your children’s schedules. What time does school begin and end? What time is recess, lunch, P.E., etc. Also, if you have high school-aged children who move around to different classes throughout the day, it’s important to have a copy of their schedule so that you know what class they are in at any given time.
Having a copy of the school map is also a great idea, especially for large schools with lots of students. This can make it easier to find your child and/or to direct them to a safe place in the event of a disaster or attack.
3. Talk to Your Children About Possible Emergency Scenarios
It’s important to talk to your kids about the likelihood of various scenarios as well as what to expect and how to react in each one. Depending on your child’s age, the way you talk to them and the information you share might differ.
You should be careful not to scare your child or make them worry too much, especially if they are young. This can cause extreme debilitating anxiety and fearfulness of school in some children so be careful how you approach this topic.
On this note, it is also important to mentally prepare your children for how to react in an emergency. Tell them to breathe and stay calm. Count backward from 10 if they are starting to panic. Go over how to mentally handle things like a shooting or being trapped in an earthquake. Staying calm can be the difference between life and death sometimes.
Go over different emergency scenarios and best responses (as well as back up plans) for each of your children. Also, let them know what you will be doing on your end if disaster strikes. This can help ease their mind if they can’t get in contact with you right away as they will know you are working to get them home to safety as quickly as possible.
4. Pack an Emergency Kit for Each of Your Children
At the school where I work, we keep our own emergency supply and First Aid kits on site but we also ask that parents pack a Ziplock-sized emergency pack for each of their children. We keep these together in our classroom emergency kit.
In each kit, parents are asked to pack a snack, a juice box, a game and a letter from them to their child. This kit is meant to help comfort children in the case of an emergency.
Parents should also provide teachers with Epipens, prescription medications and any other specialized medical supplies and information for each of their children. Children should also know how to safely take or self-administer their medications and how to access them if for some reason a teacher is unable or unavailable to help them (like if they are unconscious, etc.).
5. Enroll Your Children in a First Aid Course
If you really want to empower your children to take care of themselves and each other in an emergency (either at home or at school), I highly recommend enrolling them in a First Aid course.
Some schools offer First Aid programs as part of Phys Ed. at a certain age. But even if they do get this training at school, if you can enroll them in a private course it certainly doesn’t hurt them to get more practice.
An important part of self-reliance and emergency preparedness is to prepare to care for yourself in any situation and not rely on others to take care of you. While school staff are responsible for your children while they are at school, you just never know what could happen that could render staff unable to help or reach your child in an emergency. Also, if many people are injured, it could take a while for your child to get help.
Knowing First Aid also empowers your children to care for their peers should they need medical help. There’s really no downside. Check Google or local listings to find a First Aid course near you.
From one parent to another…
At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility as a parent to help prepare your kids for an emergency at home, school, daycare or anywhere else. As teachers, we do our best to prepare kids with regular drills and conversations at school. But as a parent, you have a special opportunity to prepare them much more thoroughly and frequently than teachers do with limited time and lots of other students and distractions to attend to.
As we head into the start of another school year, my best advice is not to wait to prepare your kids for an emergency. We are learning time and time again, you just never know when one might happen.