Unfortunately, lock-downs are happening more and more frequently at schools across the country. During lock-downs, students are often stuck in classrooms for a few hours at a time with no access to food, water, or bathrooms. This is not a good situation for kids and teachers alike, and a simple emergency bucket just might be the solution.
And it’s not just the threat of violence that might cause kids to be stuck in a classroom. Natural disasters or a catastrophic weather event would also force the same scenario. Is there a way to help your student be better prepared for this particular situation? It could all come down to a bucket.
TIP: This can also apply to churches with Sunday school rooms, places where scouts meet, homeschool co-op meeting facilities, along with any class your child attends.
What’s in the emergency bucket?
For most situations, you’ll begin with an inexpensive 5-gallon bucket.
A 5-gallon bucket is small enough to tuck in a classroom without taking up a lot of space, but large enough to hold plenty of items that could be useful in an emergency. Buckets could be bought from a home improvement or farm goods store, restaurants, or you could ask for the buckets to be donated to the school. Some grocery store delis and bakeries have been known to give these away for free.
The items put in the bucket would vary some depending on your location, but overall, the thought is to prepare for several people being in the same space for several hours. The first items I would choose to put in the bucket would be food and water. An entire case of water may actually not fit in the bucket, but could be stored nearby in the classroom.
A couple boxes of sports bars or these high-calorie survival bars would help stave off hunger, and I’d recommend a small bag of candy as well, especially if there’s a diabetic student in the classroom. One word of caution about food and kids, and you probably know what that is — feed them too much and that emergency toilet is going to get a lot of use. So, be sure to add a roll of toilet paper to the bucket, a non-see-through shower curtain, and be prepared to turn that bucket into a makeshift toilet if necessary. Depending on the layout of the classroom, the shower curtain could be stapled to two adjoining walls, creating a corner “bathroom”.
A crank radio will help keep the class informed if the emergency was due to weather, and at least one flashlight is a must, as well as extra batteries. Most modern classrooms are windowless, and I can’t imagine a worse scenario than being trapped in one with 25 panicked young children, no toilet, no water, no comfort items, and totally in the dark. Maybe a couple dozen inexpensive light sticks (usually a dollar a piece) would be a good idea, too.
Depending on where you’re located and what types of emergencies you think are most likely, your emergency bucket will be customized to those needs. Preparing for a live-shooter event, a fire, and a power outage should be included in your plans.
Items to add to the emergency bucket regardless of where you live are:
- A blanket — Helpful if someone goes into shock
- Basic first aid kit, including supplies to treat a gunshot or stab wound (heavy bandages, Quick Clot, a tourniquet)
- Nitrile gloves — So important for keeping an injury free from bacteria
- Face masks — One per student to protect against smoke inhalation
- Hand sanitizer
- A few heavy duty plastic bags to act as liners for the bucket toilet
Your local police or sheriff’s department might have suggestions for ways to stop an intruder from entering a classroom, but a few things that might come in handy are door belts, door stoppers, lock down shades and duct tape. If the classroom door has a window, think about what you could use to make sure an intruder cannot see inside.
Finally, it may be necessary for the group of students to exit the classroom through a window, so a tool that could be used to break windows would be a handy addition, and an emergency ladder if they is more than one story to climb down.
How to get buckets in the classroom
It might feel strange to bring up the subject of an emergency bucket to your child’s teacher or the principal, but it’s such a practical and simple step toward being prepared that it’s just common sense. You can start by approaching your child’s teacher and see if the teacher would be willing to have an emergency supply bucket in the classroom. I would suggest that the topic of bathroom access start the conversation. Almost everyone can relate to a time when they needed to use the bathroom and one wasn’t nearby or accessible. If he or she agrees, donations could be sought from the other parents in the class.
However, knowing that students move around in a school during the day, it might be better to approach the school principal or school board and try to have buckets put in every room in the school. For a project of that magnitude, local businesses could be asked to donate or hold a fundraiser to buy supplies. The school PTO/PTA might be willing to help, too.
For churches, scouting groups, and homeschool co-ops, talk with the person in charge and have a written copy of your emergency bucket plan. Include a price list, so they can see the bottom line at a glance. Do not forget about the other places your child might go that could possibly be locked down due to a threat or weather. These may include dance class, karate studio, gymnastics or indoor swim lessons.
Ensure your child is prepared
In the event that you cannot get the teacher, school, or leader on board with the idea of emergency buckets, try getting more parents together who want them and ask again. Even if those in charge do agree, it may take a while to get the bucket together and put in place.
In the meantime, you can put together an individual kit for your child to have while you wait for approval. I have put a few items in my children’s backpacks every year to make sure they are set if they happen to be stuck at school for a while. They always take a washable water bottle to school with them, but I put an extra plastic water bottle in their backpack along with two power or granola bars. I also include a family photo, a letter from mom and dad, a glow stick, a notebook and pencil, a small blanket for the younger ones (comfort item) and a small first aid kit. I feel better knowing they have these items and they do, too. They don’t worry as much about emergency scenarios because they know they are prepared.
In the long-term
Once the emergency buckets are in place, don’t forget about them! Keep a list of what is in the buckets and expiration dates of any food or first aid supplies. Replace those before the expiration dates. It would be good to have one person assigned to an annual check-up of the emergency buckets, and if the buckets are used during the school year, they will need to be re-stocked.
Ready-made classroom emergency buckets can be purchased on Amazon (see this one, for example), but they can be pricey. As well, they won’t be customized to the climate, potential weather events, the ages of students, or any special needs a classroom might have, but they might be a good starting point if money is easier to get than time and/or help from other parents. EmergencyKits.com has an excellent selection of pre-packaged lockdown kits in the price range of $400-500 each.
Have you thought of what your child’s classroom might need in the case of a lockdown or other shelter-in-place emergency? Do you know if their classroom is equipped for such an event?