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  How Schools Can Prepare for Disasters    



Preparedness for everyone (including schools, businesses and families) begins with a plan of action.  Each school should have a crisis plan in partnership with public safety agencies, including law enforcement and fire, health, mental health and local emergency preparedness agencies.  This plan should address traditional crisis and emergencies such as fires, severe weather, school shootings and accidents, as well as biological, radiological, chemical and terrorist activities.

Plans should address the fundamentals of safety, including alerts and warnings, adequate staff and student education and training in preparedness and first aid, evacuation and sheltering in place procedures, and communication processes to parents.  Ensuring that school staff monitor your NOAA Public Alert Radio is a great way to stay informed of potential threats.  In addition, the plan should include determinations for whether and when the school will release students.  For example, children should not be allowed to wait outside for a bus home during a lightning storm.  During heavy rain, with flash flood watches or warnings, schools should have written guidelines about the release of students.  School buses could lose control in as little as six inches of water, which means releasing students can potentially put them at greater risk than keeping them safe in school.

Additionally, school district crisis plans should address the unique circumstances and needs of individual schools.  Districts are encouraged to develop a separate plan for each school building, which should address four major areas: 
prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery.

And finally, schools need to train, practice, and drill according to the plan.  Documents on a shelf don't work in a crisis.  For more information on school emergency plans visit the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools Web site:

A Program to Protect Our Students

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  Page last modified: June 19, 2009
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