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All schools have a natural disaster response plan, but it's important to ensure it's updated and remains current and accessible. Here are a few things to keep in mind when assessing your school's readiness in the event of an emergency.
In the event of a hurricane, fire, flood or any other natural disaster, communication will be one of your most important assets. It can help govern and facilitate evacuation efforts, as well as keep parents informed or let you receive instructions from local authorities. Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment, it's not uncommon for communication efforts to fall apart.
You can avoid this chaos-induced communication blackout by establishing clear instructions as part of your plan. Create a list of all the necessary emergency contacts - local fire and police departments, poison control and even government agencies that may have representatives you can work with as part of your preparedness plan.
Additionally, make sure that there's a way for parents and other off-site personnel to be kept in the loop. This can be as old-fashioned as a phone tree or as high-tech as a Facebook or Twitter group. Just be sure that you plan for contingencies - for example, if phone lines are knocked out, you won't be able to use telephones to spread information, so online or mobile resources may be a better bet.
Create a routine
Schools are filled with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of children. This can create a logistical headache in the event of an emergency. That's why it's crucial that your students and staff alike all know what to do in a crisis. Designate an area as a meeting spot - it could be the gymnasium, the playground, the cafeteria or any other area that is central, big enough to hold everyone and familiar to all.
Make sure to hold monthly drills to practice your evacuation plan so that even the youngest students get a feel for the routine, and so that they can be prepared in the event of an actual emergency.
Involve your staff
You don't want your disaster response plan to be a surprise to your staff members - they should be an integral part of the planning process. Consider forming an emergency response committee that faculty can volunteer for, and hold a staff meeting to go over the plan once it's created.
It's also possible to make your plan accessible and shareable via the Web. You may have a CMMS that can be accessed through any Internet-connected device, or you may simply post relevant data to a designated Facebook group or Google doc. Whichever method you use, make sure that everyone knows where this critical information is, and how to access it.
When you're actually creating your plan, inspect your current maintenance and inventory situation. Are there any pieces of equipment that are especially prone to damage from weather or harsh conditions? Do you have enough water or emergency power in the event that you have to remain in the building for an extended period of time?
Organizations such as the American Red Cross provide useful resources to help in this regard. For example, the Red Cross'
Ready Rating program is a free resource that walks school administrators through a step-by-step process of developing their schools' disaster readiness plans. Other local and government offices may also be able to offer advice on things such as what supplies are recommended for emergency kits, and where you should go in the event of an evacuation.