This question comes from Paige: “Our three young children (8 yrs and 6 yr old twins) attend a public school. This past Monday, there was a bomb threat called in to the local police, and the school was evacuated. Parents had to pick up our children from school, who were sheltering in place. This brought up HUGE emergency preparedness issues for me regarding my children and their school. Thank goodness my daughters had all had lunch by the time the evacuation orders were given. But what if they had not? The teachers do not keep food on hand for their students. What about the restroom??? If a gunman/bomber had been on campus, the students would not have been allowed to leave the classrooms to use the hall restrooms. What if it had taken me hours to get to the school (traffic was horrible by the way…30,000 people also evacuating a nearby university!!!). My question to you is how should I bring these concerns up to my girls’ school! administration without sounding like a complete wacko?”
SURVIVAL MOM: I used to be a classroom teacher and can easily imagine how difficult it would be to shelter in place with 20 or 30 kids. Since your question is about talking with the administration about their emergency plans, I’ll focus on that, although I have plenty to say on the subject of kids and school safety!
First, do some research and see if there isn’t already some sort of plan in place. It might be in a parents handbook or posted online. If you find something, at least you’ll know what they have probably given it some thought. Check to see how comprehensive it is. What types of emergencies does it cover? The plan should go beyond fire drills.
If you can’t find a published plan, then approach the principal in a non-confrontational manner (he or she has the most difficult job on campus!) and ask about emergency plans. Refer back to this particular lock down, if you feel the need to justify your concern. Be ready to ask very specific questions about specific scenarios, including a campus shooting, natural disasters, power outages (lasting more than an hour or so), and extreme weather.
- What kind of security protocols do they have in place?
- What type of training have teachers received?
- How have teachers and classrooms been prepared to handle these possible scenarios?
- What plan is in place for ensuring that children get home safely?
- How will parents be notified of an emergency?
You may have to volunteer to help the school put together a comprehensive emergency plan if one isn’t in place already, and you might have to gather together other concerned parents if you don’t get the information you should.
By the way, it’s easy to equip a classroom to handle a lock down or some other emergency that would keep kids at school for an extended period. When I taught, we asked each family to send a box of tissues to school with their child, and that gave us plenty of Kleenex for runny noses. Parents could do the same. A few parents could send a case of water bottles (around $3-4 each), others could send non-perishable snacks, a few flashlights with batteries, and the school district could pay for an emergency toilet for each classroom. It wouldn’t take much to get the basics in place.
School administrators have a lot on their plates but having a complete plan to deal with a variety of crises should be required, not an option. I homeschool and have just two kids at home, and there is still plenty that could go wrong! A school with hundreds of children should be ready for the unexpected.
From Katie, “What is the best way to talk to family members about being prepared? My husband and are are on the road to being prepared for whatever, but I do not feel my immediate family is. We live in the country and they are in the city, so if something happened they would expect to come here.
I love my family, but we aren’t prepared handle them. My husband and I feel they should have their own supplies to bring with them, but they think we are crazy for preparing and therefore have nothing. Can you help with how these conversations should go and/or what do you do when SHTF and they show up with nothing?“
SURVIVAL MOM: This is going to be an issue for thousands and thousands of prepared people in the coming years, how to handle unprepared loved ones who need help.
The best solution is to try to get as many of them on board as possible before anything happens, and you already realize that. You might try starting a conversation with questions like these:
- What if something like a Hurricane Sandy hit our area? Do you have enough food and fuel to get by for a few weeks?
- What do you think of the way FEMA and other government agencies are handling the Sandy crisis? Do you still feel like you can depend on the government for help?
- If we experienced a gasoline shortage around here, how would you get to the store or doctor’s office? Do you think it might be a good idea to store a little extra food and medication? Just in case?
A lot of people don’t prepare because they don’t think anything bad will ever happen to them. That’s why so many of us don’t have wills even if we know that someday we’re going to die!
Instead of expecting loved ones to become full-fledged preppers overnight (although it’s been known to happen), go for baby steps, such as extra food in the pantry, a couple of filled gasoline cans, 2 or 3 cases of bottled water.
See, it’s not so much the stuff as it is the mindset. Once they begin to prepare for a small crisis, it’s really easy to suggest, “Maybe a month’s worth would be better. If FEMA can run out of water and power, so can we!” If that mindset has started to develop, going that extra step is logical.
If the S hits the fan and they show up at your door with nothing, all I can say is that there will be thousands of families in your same predicament. Some will be able to turn away their own mothers, but others will say, “Come on in,” knowing it will mean less food for their own children. There is no easy answer for this dilemma other than, possibly, storing up way more than you and your household will ever need in anticipation of these visitors, and then the response needs to be, “We’ll share with you, but here are our expectations if you stay…” If it looks like that will be a likely scenario, then discuss your expectations and requirements with your husband well beforehand and make sure you’re both on the same page.
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