Kids spend a lot of time in school, and while we know they’re in the best hands with their teachers and support staff, emergencies can still happen – after all, they are unexpected! Whether it’s an allergic reaction, a fall in the playground, or local area flooding, we’ve put together a few types of emergencies in schools so you can prepare with your school-age kids ahead of time.
While there are many disasters that can occur anywhere in the country, most are regionally based and will depend on where you live. Natural disasters include everything from spring thunderstorms and flooding, to tornadoes, earthquakes, and severe windstorms, so make sure your kids know what to do if a natural disaster strikes during school hours, whether it’s to shelter-in-place, or evacuate via a controlled student release.
TIP: Make sure your child’s school has the most up-to-date alternate contacts in case you can’t pick up your child during a release (hint: ePACT can help with this!).
From police situations in the surrounding community, acts of terrorism, or active shooter events, man-made events can threaten the safety of students and staff as unpredictably as a sudden severe weather event. On these occasions, schools implement lockdown procedures to protect everyone from these external threats.
TIP: Familiarize yourself and your kids with school emergency procedures, highlight the importance of practice drills that schools hold throughout the year, and teach your kids the value of “see something, say something”.
Fire, Flood, or Chemical Spill
Just like anywhere, schools can experience more common types of emergencies, putting students and staff at risk. Whether it’s a chemical spill accident in the science lab, a burst pipe in one of the locker rooms, or a fire in the janitor’s closet, knowing how to respond actively and properly can ensure student safety, and prevent these emergencies from getting out of hand quickly.
TIP: Make sure students know when it’s appropriate to activate the fire alarm, teach older students how to operate fire extinguishers (and when it’s safe for them to do so), and practice how to quickly open windows and evacuate classrooms if there’s a gas leak.
Playgrounds are where children can reap social, developmental, and physical benefits, and because it’s such a popular place for kids, it’s easy to forget that it can be a hazardous environment also! Falls and trips are common, and can lead to injuries like broken bones, concussions, strains, and cuts – in fact, each year over 200,000 kids are sent to the ER with injuries related to playground equipment!
TIP: Make sure the school has your most up-to-date contact information, including any mobile numbers and email addresses, so they can let you know as soon as an accident happens (hint: ePACT can help with this!).
Allergic reactions, complications with ongoing health conditions, or unexpected major illnesses can affect any student at any time, and can be scary for other students and staff to deal with. If your child has known allergies or medical conditions, make sure they know what to in the case of a reaction or occurrence, and have them teach their friends and teachers how to help if they’re incapacitated.
TIP: Make sure your school has the most up-to-date medical information for your child, including allergies that are no longer applicable, new medications, or specific equipment like EpiPens or asthma inhalers.
If you’d like additional preparedness resources for your family or school, we’ve gathered a few for you here:
- Emergency Preparedness In School (Community for Accredited Online Schools)
- Emergency Management Preparedness Guide (Government of British Columbia – Ministry of Education)
- School Emergency Preparedness Resources (ePACT Network)
- Schools and Childcare – Preparing for the Unexpected (CDC)
- School Safety During Emergencies: What Parents Need To Know (HealthyChildren.org)
- Interactive Map: Natural Disasters (ADT)
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