In the United States, adults spend many hours at the office and meeting with clients. These hours, not to mention the time spent commuting each week, leave many children in the care of someone else. It is estimated that in this country, 68 million children are left at schools and with other paid caregivers for approximately 2000 hours per year. So, is there a disaster plan in place at these facilities? Are their plans practiced, understood and adequate?
The most recent annual report from the Save the Children Foundation shows that the school systems in 17 states are adequately prepared to handle a disaster. This number is up from just four in 2008.
Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an F4 Tornado in 2002 and the Washington, D.C. Sniper drama that same year, the state of Maryland made school disaster planning a priority. Their plans paid off in August of 2011 when a rare earthquake shook the mid-Atlantic. See how staff at one YMCA reacted – thanks to preparedness plans and training.
The report measures preparedness by state in four categories. Does the state require written evacuation plans for multiple types of incidents for all facilities housing children K – 12 and younger? Does the state mandate a written plan to notify parents in the case of an emergency? Does the state require written evacuation plans for babies, toddlers and children with other disabilities? Does the state require multiple scenario evacuation plans for schools grades K – 12?
I encourage you to review your children’s school’s preparedness plan and make sure you understand it. In the event of an emergency, you may even want to have a written copy handy. Know where to meet your child or what the rules are in terms of contacting the school. If your school seems to lack plans, it’s something to investigate further within your state and with the school. School isn’t the only place a disaster can occur, so put plans in place at home as well. Make sure all family members know what to do in the case of a disaster. College students and their families should also understand the plans on campus. Many places of higher learning have instituted various plans and notification methods for faculty, students and staff.