3 questions to ask about your school’s safety plan

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Disasters can happen anytime, including when your children are at school. Do you know exactly where they will be if it strikes?

1. Where is my child in the building?

Ask your children or their teachers where the students will be during any type of drill – fire, tornado, earthquake and lockdown drills. Think through where the children would be when they are in different parts of the building, too, such as lunchtime and specials. Keep a copy of your children’s daily schedule on hand. I often keep a copy on the refrigerator and take a picture to keep in my phone.

Speaking of lockdown drills, make sure to take the time to talk to your children about what they would do if one happened when they were in various locations in the school. One of my children once asked what she should do if she was in the bathroom when they called for a lockdown – that made for an interesting discussion.

2. What is the evacuation plan?

If the school is damaged, find out where the school will take the children. Sometimes there is a church or community center nearby that the school plans to use. Some school may plan to use a nearby field or parking lot if there is not a big enough building nearby. If your children are the kind that like reassurance (mine do), let them know that you know where they will be taken to during an evacuation and that you will come get them.

3. What hospital does the school use in its school safety plan?

Sometimes a disaster is a more personal one where children get hurt or collapse at school. If they have to transport your child to a hospital, do you know which one they would use? Knowing that could save you time by knowing ahead of time exactly how to get there. It is good to know what emergency services your school would call as well. Do you have specific people lined up who can get your children in emergencies if you are not available? Make sure to let your children know who is and is not allowed to pick them up. One good idea is to establish a family code word that a person who picks them up should know.

Ask these questions and you can be prepared in case a disaster happens while your children are in school. You can also apply these questions to any event that you leave your children at – scouts, church, sports, and friends’ houses. Knowing where they are means you will be able to get to them quicker in case of an emergency.

What other questions would you ask about your school’s emergency plan?

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Sarah Anne Carter is a writer and reader. She grew up all over the world as a military brat and is now putting down roots with her family in Ohio. Visit her at SarahAnneCarter.com

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3 thoughts on “3 questions to ask about your school’s safety plan”

  1. Also ask about your school’s reunification plan. Many parents go to the school after an emergency, expecting to rush in and get their child. This is completely understandable from an emotional point of view, but from a logistical point of view, this is a nightmare for the school. They are legally accountable for the students’ whereabouts. That means there HAS to be a paper trail for signing students out.

    Usually this means that in a significant emergency, parents will be directed to a location near to where the students have been evacuated. They wait there while school personnel retrieve their child and will have to sign paperwork documenting that they have picked up their child. Panicking parents harassing personnel or trying to access the student evacuation area only make reunification efforts slower for everyone. Therefore it’s important to review your school’s reunification plan and clarify any questions..

    I totally agree that schools should practice fire drills for all kinds of situations, not just clean and tidy ones in the middle of a class period. We call them “Fire Drills Deluxe” at our school. They might involve a blocked exit, a fire drill during recess, a fire drill during passing time/bathroom breaks, etc. Talk to your administrator about the importance of running these kinds of fire drills too.

  2. This is a great article! I’m going to pin it to my Always Be Prepared board. With three kids in school (K, 2nd and 4th) they each have a different level of needing to know what to do during and after an emergency at their school. My daughter was in 1st grade when there was a tornado warning in our area at the end of the day. The school still released all of the kids on the bus and when they didn’t get home on time and the sirens were going off we panicked! Calling the school we learned they had turned the bus around and were holding the kids until all was clear. It was a good thing too because the town next to us was ripped apart by this F3 tornado. To this day my daughter is scared to death when she’s on the bus in a storm. Talking to the school about what their plans are for dismissal during bad weather is important. I know I’d much rather they hold onto my kids until all is safe than spend time worrying when we need to be taking precautions for our own safety at home!

  3. On your #2, I work for a public school district and am in charge of disemminating district information. A smart school district would actually NEVER discuss ahead of time where students would be evacuated to. If an evacuation is necessary because of a bomb threat of a gunman, pre-disclosing off-sites to parents means that information is public – and therefore, those who wish to do harm to students would ALSO know the Plan B sites for kids. It would actually put kids in jeopoardy to publicly disclose this information in advance of an actual crisis.

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