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Mar 09

Schools: It’s time to Ask and Tell

As a parent, do you assume that your child’s school has what it needs to respond effectively when disaster strikes, but don’t Ask?  As a teacher or administrator do you know ways your campus preparedness and response readiness could be improved, but don’t Tell?

Children spend a major portion of their week at school and disasters can happen anytime.  School campus preparedness and readiness to respond is an ongoing challenge. Facing that challenge takes the collaborative commitment of parents, teachers and administrators every year.  Parents and/or Parent Teacher groups should take the leading role in procuring the disaster supplies needed for teachers and administrators to effectively care for their children in disasters until they can be safely released. Teachers and administrators should take the time to keep their disaster response skills up-to-date and learn new skills if possible.  After all, they can be victims too, and need to be able to rely on each other to respond.

Here are some questions parents need to Ask administrators:

How can we best help better prepare this campus for emergencies and disasters?

What role(s) would you like parents to play in preparing for and responding to disasters?

Which of the following types of disaster supplies do you already have on campus and which do you not have or need more of?

  • First aid supplies and a means of transporting the injured.
  • How many adults on campus are currently first aid certified?
  • A means of providing shelter from the sun, wind and rain if the safety of structures is uncertain and students can not re-enter buildings.
  • An on-campus supply of water or a plan for how to get water to the campus in disasters – even if the roads are impassable.
  • A supply of drinking water and a means of creating emergency toilet “facilities” with a privacy shield, toilet paper, feminine hygiene product, and hand sanitation supplies in each classroom for lockdowns.  (Feminine hygiene products can be used for wound dressing too.)
  • A plan to evacuate those supplies from the classroom (if safe to do so) when students are evacuated in disasters and/or a separate stash of supplies that are accessible even if buildings are unsafe to re-enter.
  • How many adults on campus are CERT trained?
  • Is there and AED on campus and how many adults on campus are currently certified in CPR and AED use?

Here are some things school administrators need to Tell parents:

Communicate the importance of parents naming at least two people on their child’s emergency release card who can walk to the school, if necessary, within an hour or two to release their child.  Stress the need for them to keep their emergency contact information current.

Give parents (and/or make available on your school web site) an overview of your Safe School Plan.  Be sure to include:

  • A list of the kind of disaster supplies you have on campus as well as a list of the disaster supplies you need.
  • An overview of the campus emergency student release process and the role that parents are expected to play.
  • The location of off-campus evacuation site(s) you plan to use if the campus must be evacuated because it is unsafe?
  • How you will communicate with parents in everyday emergencies as well as after a major disaster. (e.g., Emergency broadcast radio?  If yes, which one(s) should parents tune to?)
  • What school bus drivers will do if disaster strikes while their children are en route to or from school on the bus or at an off-campus sports team event or field trip.

Working together in a spirit of cooperation and determination, with the best interest of our children and the teachers and administrators to whom we entrust them in mind, we can improve the preparedness and response-abilities of every school campus.