It’s Time to Update the Plan
Yay! (Insert happy dance). School is back in session and I can hardly contain my happiness at having order, (or something like it) return to my home.
Even the chaos of the first month while getting settled in school is superior to the craziness of summer break. I love the return of routines, the major chunk of time that our days now revolve around, and that bedtime has a solid argument behind it. I love September!
Back to school is also a great time to return to your original emergency plans and evaluate them, or to finally make a plan. It’s time to think about back to school preparedness.
Has your emergency contact information changed? Did a child start kindergarten or junior high? Is there a new bus route? All these things and more, need to be considered in your emergency plans. Let me walk you through making changes to your plan to best accommodate a school routine.
Start at the Beginning with a Plan
Get out your current emergency plan. If you don’t have one yet use the emergency plans link above or download this handy packet from Oregon.gov to get started. It’s a simple and easy way to set up your plan. Just answer the questions as a family and you’re on your way.
There are several things to consider with school age kids. As you answer the questions in the packet mentioned above or as you go through your current plan you can develop a solid plan for a school day emergency. Be sure your kids participate in in the planning. They will be the experts on what is happening as they go to and from school, and during the school day.
Know the Emergency
What are you preparing for, a natural disaster or a man-made disaster? School brings its own set of realities no one wants to face, but it’s important to discuss these as a family to prepare kids for all the situations that we hope they never have to face.
Talking about these things is an important part of emotional preparedness for kids and will create greater resilience in the future. Knowledge is powerful.
Know the Procedures
What are the school’s current procedures and protocols regarding emergency situations? This can be tricky to get because some schools won’t release that information for security reasons. Your best approach may be to ask your kids and their teachers what they do during drills.
This should be written into your emergency plan so you know where to meet teachers in the event of a disaster, and where your child will most likely be so they can be located by your designated emergency contact.
Also be sure both teacher and contact know who’s doing the picking up in a disaster and that your contact is close by and available during a disaster. You don’t want the kids to be stranded as you are trying to get to them.
Know the Routes
Bus routes, walking routes, driving routes should all be marked and labeled on a map in your plan. Disasters happen while traveling, so determine if there needs to be an alternate route home.
Mark bridges, overpasses, landslide-prone areas, and areas where buildings may be obstacles that could prevent you from getting home. Also determine a primary, secondary, and tertiary meeting location along those routes and how long to wait at each location before moving to the next.
Make a record of when each person leaves home and their arrival to school/work, and vice versa. This helps everyone know what time and place along the route someone will be.
Assign a Meeting Place
Just as your family has a meeting place outside your home in case of a fire, your kids need one outside of their school. It’s nice to think a disaster will run as smoothly as the drills, but odds are they won’t. If they’ve already alerted a teacher that they are accounted for, then having a central location to meet parents, siblings, or their emergency contact means no one gets left behind.
And should the teachers be unaccounted for, your kids will be able to account for each other, and know if and where to send help if someone is missing.
What should they do while they wait for you? If they are at school chances are you could be at work, the doctors, the grocery store, etc. Do they know what to do if their parents aren’t able to get home quickly or even for a few days? This is another reason family camping trips and scouting is such an awesome family preparedness tool.
Lastly, be involved in your kid’s schools! Know the school, the staff, the kids. A frazzled teacher trying to keep track of 30 kids and identify parents, caregivers, and emergency contacts will need the help of a familiar face- not only to help with the work but because recognition is a habit. She won’t have to think about who you are and who belongs to you.
Join the PTA, volunteer in their classes or around the school, go on a few field trips. Through this involvement, you become familiar with the kids, the staff, and they with you.
With all these questions in mind, you can put a solid plan into place for your family. Empowering your kids with this knowledge gives them a solid foundation of psychological preparedness that will promote resilience and prevent excessive trauma. Back to school preparedness may be even more important than the best 72-hour kit you can give them.