How to Prepare at School

Disasters pose unique challenges for schools, particularly those that occur with little or no warning. After a disaster, it may be not possible for students and staff to leave from school. It may also not be possible for emergency responders to get to the school building. In some cases, students and staff could spend 72 hours or longer on the premises, without any outside assistance.

The good news is that with proper planning and training, everyone at your school can be prepared in the event of an emergency. Knowing how to react and respond in a disaster can go a long way to keeping staff and students safe and sound.

Developing a Plan

School Emergency Management Plans maintain the safety and care of students and staff during and after an emergency. The School Emergency Management Plan should include:

  • Provisions for staff and students who may need extra support or assistance evacuating;
  • Details on how the school will communicate internal and externally during and after emergency;
  • A school release plan outlining how, when, and to whom students will be release;
  • Various types of response protocols like Drop/Cover/Hold on, evacuate, lockdown, lockout and shelter in place.

Be sure to conduct training and practice exercises so that both staff and students are familiar with the plan and know how they are going to act in an emergency situation. Posting key elements of the plan on your school's website will help families prepare for a potential emergency. 

Classroom Emergency Kits

Individual classrooms should have enough emergency supplies for each student and teacher. Duffel bags, large/rolling garbage cans or storage bins are great options for storing these supplies. Items stored in your emergency kits should include the following:

  • Adequate first aid supplies (first aid training for all staff);
  • Emergency search and rescue tools;
  • Flashlights and extra batteries;
  • Battery powered radios and extra batteries;
  • Water and small paper cups (2 litres per day per person for drinking - minimum for 24 hours);
  • Non-perishable emergency food (for a minimum of 24 hours);
  • Space blankets or regular blankets;
  • Sanitation supplies;
  • Staff and student data and student release information;
  • Student medications;
  • Megaphone.

Planning Tip:

Do you have a method of communicating with your staff and students if the power is out and your school intercom won't work? Does your school have a back-up communications system (such as a satellite phone) to communicate with local emergency services? What will you do if the home lines are down and cell service is unavailable? Plan ahead by ensuring your school has an effective plan for communicating within and outside of your facility.