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  1. Youth Topics
  2. Preparedness & Recovery
  3. Preparation: Schools and Programs

Preparation: Schools and Programs

Many youth spend a significant amount of time outside their homes. They spend their days at schools, in community programs, and at recreational facilities, which are responsible for their temporary care until they are reunited with their families. Schools and programs also often provide additional services for youth, including health care and meals. These need to be considered as part of preparedness planning. For example, schools need to determine whether they have enough food for a lock down and that they are sufficiently prepared to meet the health care needs of all their students for an extended period, if evacuated, or if the power is out.1 Therefore, it is important that these locations plan for crises or disasters and share their emergency preparedness plans with parents and legal guardians. Emergencies can also happen when youth are in transit between home and school or other programs; therefore, it is important that school and youth-serving programs include this time in their emergency plans.

A 2008 review of childcare and K-12 disaster preparedness found that 18 states do not require K-12 schools to have written procedures for general disaster planning. Without written procedures for disaster preparedness, any emer­gency response effort can falter due to variables such as staff changes, communication failures, or misunderstandings about staff roles and responsibilities. School disaster plans should be in writing, easily available, practiced often, and consistently improved.2

The Department of Education emphasizes the importance of safe schools and encourages schools and districts to conduct vulnerability assessments and develop crisis plans.

  • Vulnerability assessments can help schools and districts identify risk factors and potential areas of weakness in order to ensure that they are adequately prepared to address potential hazards. It is important that these assessments occur on an ongoing basis and the data identified inform comprehensive plans for school emergency management. Learn more about vulnerability assessments. (PDF, 90 pages).
  • Emergency management plans To help ensure the best foundation for all school emergency management planning efforts, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) recommends a comprehensive school emergency management plan that incorporates the four phases of school emergency management (prevention-mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery), and uses an all-hazards approach. A comprehensive plan would also be based upon the following ED tenets:

    • Work from a multidisciplinary team approach, i.e., include school-based specialists from a variety of disciplines, including but not limited to school nurses, facilities, transportation, and food personnel, administrators, educators, and family services representatives;
    • Customize school emergency management plans based on hazard/vulnerability assessments, and incorporate the unique resources of the district and school as well as its community partners;
    • Collaborate, coordinate, and communicate with community partners (including, but not limited to law enforcement and fire personnel, health, public and mental health practitioners, and EMS);
    • Integrate students and staff with disabilities and other access and functional needs including communication;
    • Support the implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and the Incident Command System (ICS); and
    • Train and practice using both tabletop and full-scale exercises with school and community partners on responses to hazards facing the school based on a hazard/vulnerability assessment specific to that school.
    • Learn more about school emergency management plans. (PDF, 132 pages).

In addition, many youth-serving organizations and institutions receiving federal funding may be required to have a disaster preparedness plan in place. For example, state and Tribal child welfare agencies are responsible for developing a disaster plan as part of their five- year Child and Family Service Plan and must update the plan every year with any changes. If you are working with a youth who is linked to a system, it is helpful to know the disaster planning procedures are planned by that system to facilitate coordination.

Just as it is important for families to practice their disaster preparedness plans, it is also essential that schools and youth-serving programs practice implementing their disaster preparedness plans so that adults and youth will be more comfortable, effective, and efficient in the event of an actual emergency. When practicing, schools should provide realistic and organized exercises that increase in complexity over time. These exercises allow schools to identify potential vulnerabilities, partners to practice effective and efficient responses, and schools to recognize resources that might be needed for recovery. Learn more about practicing for emergencies. (PDF, 79 pages).


Ready.gov Parents and Teachers
This section of the Ready.gov website features resources, activities, and information for parents and teachers to use in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery efforts.

FEMA Preparedness Tips for School Administrators
The Preparedness Tips for School Administrators fact sheet is comprised of tips and suggestions on preparedness, as well as links to tools and resources specifically for school administrators. Resources are pulled from FEMA, the Department of Education, CDC, and practitioners in the field. This document can help school administrators answer the questions parents might have regarding emergency management planning and practices. The resource also provides tips for administrators to explain school and parent roles and responsibilities in preparing for and responding to emergencies.

ED Office of Safe and Healthy Students Emergency Planning Website
The U.S. Department of Education (ED)'s Office of Safe and Healthy Students' (OSHS) Center for School Preparedness provides guidance, tools, and resources, to support comprehensive, all-hazards school emergency management efforts for PreK-12 schools and institutions of higher education.

Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities (PDF, 132 pages)
Taking action now can save lives, prevent injury, and minimize property damage in the moments of a crisis. Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities is designed to help navigate the process of reviewing and revising school and district plans. The guide is intended to give schools, districts, and communities the critical concepts and components of good crisis planning, stimulate thinking about the crisis preparedness process, and provide examples of promising practices.

A Guide to School Vulnerability Assessment Key: Principles for Safe Schools (PDF, 90 pages)
This guide is a companion piece to the Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities (above). It emphasizes a valuable part of emergency management planning—ongoing vulnerability assessment—and is intended to assist schools with the selection and implementation of an effective vulnerability assessment tool.

The Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center
The REMS Technical Assistance Center supports public and non-public schools, school districts, and institutions of higher education in school emergency management, including the development and implementation of comprehensive all-hazards emergency management plans. The TA Center disseminates information about school emergency management to help individual schools, school districts, and institutions of higher education learn more about developing, implementing, and evaluating comprehensive, all-hazards school emergency management plans.

CDC Emergency Preparedness and Response Website
This website is CDC’s primary source of information and resources for preparing for and responding to public health emergencies. This site continues to keep the public informed about public health emergencies and provides the information needed to protect and save lives. The site features specific information and resources focused on different types of disasters including bioterrorism, chemical emergencies, natural disasters, radiation emergencies, mass casualties, and others.

CDC Emergency Preparedness and You
The possibility of public health emergencies arising in the United States concerns many people in the wake of recent hurricanes, tsunamis, acts of terrorism, and the threat of pandemic influenza. Taking advance action helps people deal with disasters of all sorts much more effectively when they do occur. To help, CDC and the American Red Cross have teamed up to answer common questions and provide step-by-step guidance.

CDC Preparedness Resources for Schools
Schools and education agencies cannot prevent natural disasters, or even many man-made crises, but they can help students prepare for and plan to respond to such emergencies. Resources are available to help schools, education agencies, and institutions of higher education develop such plans, usually in collaboration with public health and first responder agencies.

ACF Preparing for Disasters and Disruptions to Service Continuity
Preparing for disasters involves creating plans, preparing to manage a disaster, and enhancing critical infrastructure prior to a disaster. In this section of the Child Welfare Information Gateway, you will find federal and state resources for both professionals and families to prepare for disasters—both natural (e.g., hurricanes, floods, fires) and human created (e.g., terrorism) disasters, including examples of State disaster plans.

Coping with Disasters and Strengthening Systems: A Framework for Child Welfare Agencies (PDF, 58 pages)
This resource was developed by the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Organizational Improvement (NRCOI) a service of the Children's Bureau and provides information for before a disaster occurs, during a disaster, and after a disaster.

1 National Advisory Committee on Children and Terrorism, 2004
2 Save the Children, 2008


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