How Parents can Prepare their Child for an Emergency
While the school staff has been trained and continue to receive guidance on how best to help students, the best advocate for your child is YOU! Ask your child's teacher about the plans the school has in place for emergencies such as earthquakes, blizzards, bomb threats, and armed intruders. You can also ask how often school officials and safety experts meet to discuss safety procedures. While some schools may hesitate to share all components of their plans and strategies, make yourself aware of the information available to you.
At the Beginning of the School Year, Parents Can:
- Review with their child the family emergency plan, including reunification and communication options.
- Provide the school with information about any unique needs their children may have. This can be accomplished by filling out an emergency information form and working with school health staff to be sure there is an emergency plan on file for your child that includes information on health issues and what is needed during other school emergencies.
- Arrange for the school to have on hand back up/extra medication or other items to address the unique needs of your child so they have what they need if there is an emergency where they need to remain in the school building for a longer period of time.
- Provide the school and your child's teacher with up-to-date contact information for family or friends who can help out if you are unavailable. Be sure to update this information as needed throughout the school year.
- Learn about the school's plan for emergency response, including parental access during emergencies, school emergency contact information, meet-up locations, and other reunification plans.
Helpful Guidelines to Keep in Mind When Talking with Children about School Safety
For some children, even participation in a drill may cause some emotional distress, especially if it reminds them of a prior crisis event or if they otherwise are feeling vulnerable or anxious. As a parent, you are in the best position to help your child cope. Any conversation with a child must be developmentally appropriate.
- Young children need brief simple information that should be balanced with reassurance. This includes informing children that their school and home are safe (once these are secure) and that adults are available to protect them. Young children often gauge how threatening or serious an event is by adult reactions. This is why, for example, parents are encouraged not to get overly emotional when saying goodbye on the first day of school. Young children respond well to basic assurance by adults and simple examples of school safety, like reminding them the exterior doors are locked.
- Upper elementary and early middle school children may be more vocal in asking questions about whether they are truly safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Parents can share the information they have about the school's safety plan and any other relevant communication to ease their child's mind.
- Upper middle school and high school students may have strong and varying opinions about causes of violence in school and society. Parents should stress the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following the school's safety guidelines (e.g., not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to school safety made by students or community members, etc.).