Planning and Preparing to go Back to School

As children put away their swimsuits and bring out their school supplies, there is no better time to teach them the importance of emergency preparedness. Realize that if a community experiences a disaster or emergency situation the school is probably going to be the safest place for a child.

“Public K-12 schools in California are legally required by the Field Act to be built to a higher construction standard than other buildings and are inspected more frequently – this makes them less likely to collapse during an earthquake,” explains Monica Carazo, Public Information Officer for the Los Angeles Unified School District. “Schools are also provided with fire alarms, sprinklers and extinguishers which guard against fires.”

Throughout the year, schools actively prepare for natural disasters, outbreaks, and other emergency situations. Both parents and students need to be aware and learn what to do during an emergency.

Parents should ask school administrators and teachers about emergency preparedness plans and know what steps they are taking to keep the children safe. Schools should have guidelines on how to shelter-in-place during natural disasters and how to secure classrooms during an emergency lockdown.

“Parents can ask to see the school’s emergency plan and can keep themselves informed of school procedures by attending parent meetings, reading the student-parent handbook, the school newsletter, and checking the school website periodically,” says Carazo.

It is important for parents to follow the protocols and processes set in place by the school regarding sheltering-in-place, lockdowns, and evacuations, since children’s safety could depend on it. Most importantly stay calm and wait to receive instructions from school administrators or local authorities.

For this reason, make certain the emergency contact information the school has on record is accurate and up-to-date. Changes to your office, name, address or phone number should be reported to the school as soon as possible to ensure that they have the correct information.

Every family should take the time to build an emergency kit, make a family disaster plan, and know how to be reunited with family members if there is an emergency during the school day.

Here are some steps to help be better prepared:

  • Make sure children know the full name, address, and phone numbers of parents or guardians. In this high-tech world of cell phones, memorizing emergency phone numbers is very important. Make a memory game for the most important phone numbers and addresses. Children should know their home address and at least two emergency contact phone numbers.
  • Make an emergency card, which includes important information about your child; their name, school, contact information, date of birth, if applicable a list of allergies, medical conditions, and medications. On the reverse side of the card, write down parent or guardian’s contact information and an additional emergency contact. This emergency card should be secured in child’s backpack.
  • Other items to keep in a backpack may include: water and non-perishable snacks; a pocket- sized first aid kit, and a whistle to alert others for help. It is also a good idea to make sure their school and teacher have a copy, too.
  • Go over different routes and ways to travel home, like walking, taking the bus, or riding home with another student who lives nearby. Have a unique meet-up location away from home. Practice getting to your emergency meeting place from school, friends’ homes, and after school activities.
  • Establish a secret code word with your child and whoever takes them home from school to protect against an unauthorized person picking them up.
  • Follow social media accounts for school, police, fire, and emergency management officials. Sign up for wireless emergency alerts and local news alerts.

So, when shopping for school supplies, checking bus schedules, and getting ready for class, make sure to have emergency plans in place. Remember, children who are prepared are more confident during stressful emergency situations. By following preparedness guidelines, parents, children, and school staff can improve their safety and peace of mind.

Additional Resources for Parents and Students:

Preparedness for Families

Preparedness for Schools & Educators

Be a Disaster Master

Pre-made Backpack Emergency Card

Sign up for Wireless Emergency Alerts

Robb Mayberry

Robb Mayberry is a Public Information Officer for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. He has assisted in the response and recovery efforts with some of California’s worst disasters, including the San Refugio Oil Spill, the Valley and Butte Wildfires, Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, Erskine Fire, and the Winters Storms of 2017. Prior to public service, he spent 25 years managing the public and media relations for some of Northern California’s largest healthcare organizations.

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