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Learning About School Policies

Published on: 9/22/2015 11:51 AM

Check on the school emergency plan of any school-age children you may have. You need to know that they keep children at school until a parent or designated adult can pick them up. Be sure that the school has updated information about how to reach parents and responsible caregivers to arrange for pickup. If you are not able to pick up your child, ask what type of authorization the school may require to release a child into the custody of someone you designate.
  • During an emergency, school personnel become emergency responders.
  • No matter what the emergency the same people will be carrying out the same tasks and functions.
  • Plans must be user friendly and team built.
  • All personnel, including students and parents, must know their roles in advance.
  • By conducting drills and exercises, these roles and procedures are tested and refined.
Each school should develop plans that include teaching students and staff what to do during disasters that are likely to occur in their area - whether those occur while they are at school or at home. Schools in earthquake risk areas should teach “Drop, Cover and Hold,” to their students. Even kindergartners can understand the importance of getting under a desk or table and covering their head if the earth starts shaking. The “FEMA for Kids” Website includes curriculum that teachers can use, as well as stories, activities and games to make disaster preparedness appealing to youngsters.
Schools also need to plan ahead to determine when and whether they will release students. Children should not be let out to wait for the bus during lightning storms, for example. During heavy rain with flashflood watches or warning, schools should have written guidelines about the release of students. School buses can be swept away by as little as 6 inches of water, thus releasing students may put them at greater risk than keeping them in the safety of your buildings. School staff can monitor weather conditions better if each school has a NOAA weather radio, which costs only about $30 or $40.
It is important to bring parents into the planning process. They will feel more comfortable if they know you have a plan and understand how it works. It's also important for them to understand emergency actions you may take, such as restricting to whom students are released following a disaster. Reminders should be sent out at the beginning of each school year. Parents with special skills may also be recruited as emergency volunteers - particularly if they live within walking distance. Parents who are doctors, nurses, telecommunications experts, machinists or electricians may be particularly helpful. And don't forget to also include members of your surrounding community. Schools don't exist in a vacuum, and during a disaster, they may be looked upon as a vital recovery element by the community. Your plan should take into account this possibility.
There is much that can be done by school officials to plan for disaster, to mitigate the risk, to protect the safety of students and educators, and to ensure that schools recover quickly. The key, though, is timing. While local, state and federal emergency management stand ready to mobilize when necessary to help communities pick up the pieces and recover, it's preferable to expend energy BEFORE the disaster.
Many states now require specific disaster preparedness activities in their school systems. In California, schools are required to have a disaster plan, to hold periodic drop, cover and hold drills and to hold educational and training programs for students and staff.
Schools, day care centers and colleges need to prepare for a major damaging earthquake. In such an event, school administrators and teachers will have to be self-sufficient--relying on their own resources to protect and care for the student population and the immediate surrounding communities until outside assistance is available. The California Education Code requires public and private schools, K-12, to develop emergency plans and to conduct "Drop, Cover and Hold" drills. However, our schoolchildren and their families need more information and education on earthquake safety and preparedness measures. Your school can take part in this unique and important public education campaign in April and throughout the year by:
  • Conducting a school drill to test emergency plans and procedures. Make sure you test communications systems, evacuation plans, search and rescue activities and first aid techniques. (For planning assistance, contact your city or county Office of Emergency Services.)
  • Securing and anchoring school equipment and furniture --including bookshelves, cabinets, computers and typewriters--that may present a threat during an earthquake.
  • Encouraging all school staff and students to prepare an earthquake emergency plan for their families.
  • Sending information home for parents on the school's emergency policies and procedures.
  • Updating information on "emergency notification cards."
  • Conducting in-service training workshops on first aid, shelter management, damage assessment and other related topics for school staff.
  • Dedicating a special class or school assembly to the effects of earthquakes and the importance of proper preparation.
  • Displaying preparedness information at high traffic areas in your school.
  • Conducting a hazard hunt in classrooms and offices.
  • Assembling emergency kits which include important safety information and first aid supplies.
  • Planning a "field trip" to an earthquake preparedness exhibit near your school.
  • Conducting fundraising activities to raise monies to purchase earthquake preparedness supplies and equipment.
For more information on school emergency planning, additional guidance and school site safety planning can be provided by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.  For the following publications contact the OES Earthquake Program offices/OES Coastal Region: Earthquake Program by calling (510) 286-0895.
School Emergency Response: Using SEMS at Districts and Sites
June 3, 1998, 102 pages
Guidelines to familiarize school personnel with present material that would make the job of complying with the Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) manageable for school districts and sites.
Academic Aftershocks (Video)
November 1995, 46 minutes
Administrators, faculty and staff members, and emergency response professionals discuss the affects of the Northridge earthquake on the CSUN campus. The video examines crucial issues for the university in the hours, days and weeks following the disaster, including securing the campus, emergency communications and assessing damages. Also details important steps for all campuses to take in developing or updating emergency plans, training all employees in their disaster response roles, holding regular campus wide exercises, and reducing potential structural and nonstructural hazards.
It's Academic: Disaster Preparedness for Schools (Video)
November 1996, 15 minutes
Against the backdrop of the January, 1994 earthquake impacts on California State University, Northridge, school personnel and emergency responders discuss what schools should do now so they can respond to and recover from a future earthquake. The video identifies a number of critical issues for all schools. This shortened version of "Academic Aftershocks" is accompanied by a reproducible checklist on school preparedness to provoke discussion and guide actions at a school site or across a district.
Schools as Post-Disaster Shelters: Planning and Management Guidelines for Districts and Sites
December 1995, 150 pages
Discusses important issues like sheltering operations, interagency coordination and pre-disaster agreements assessing structural safety, and school resumption. Valuable tips included on financial considerations, disaster authority and law, and training and exercises for school personnel.
Post-Earthquake Damage Evaluation for California Schools: A Training Program
March 1995, 30 pages & 160 slides
Will provide school administrators, facility mangers, and custodians with a realistic understanding of the kinds of earthquake-caused damages and the dangers they pose to building occupants.
Earthquake Ready: Preparedness Planning for Schools
June 1993, revised, 76 pages
The materials in this training kit discuss steps in developing a safety plan and exercises for personnel. Also detailed are ways to form planning and emergency response teams. Reducing nonstructural hazards and stockpiling medical, water, and food supplies are addressed.
Earthquake Preparedness Policy: Considerations for School Governing Boards
January 1991, 12 pages
Provides information about current laws regulating earthquake preparedness in public and private schools in California, and indicates policies schools should consider adopting in order to formulate a comprehensive response plan. Liability is also discussed.