Disasters and Emergencies Early care and education programs should consider how to prepare for and respond to emergency situations or natural disasters that may require evacuation, lock-down, or shelter- in-place and have written plans, accordingly. Written plans should be posted in each classroom and areas used by children. The following topics should be addressed, including but not limited to regularly scheduled practice drills, procedures for notifying and updating families, and the use of the daily class roster(s) to check attendance of children and staff during an emergency or drill when gathered in a safe space after exit and upon return to the program. All drills/exercises should be recorded.53 Emergencies often happen suddenly and can be devastating to programs and communities. Emergency preparedness is the process of taking steps to ensure your early care and education program is safe before, during, and after an emergency. Whether a natural disaster such as a tornado hits or a man-made emergency such as the appearance of a violent intruder occurs, early childhood educators need to know how to respond quickly and appropriately to situations that could happen in their program, center, or home. It’s important for every program to create an emergency preparedness plan specific to their location, building, and grounds. Early care and education programs play an important role in supporting children and families in their local communities before, during, and after an emergency through three phases of emergency management:
Preparedness—Takes place before an emergency. It includes being informed about any likely emergencies in your area; mitigating any existing concerns at your facility that could make an emergency worse; making plans to respond to emergencies before they happen; and building, maintaining, and updating supply kits you will take or keep with you during an emergency.
Response—Begins the moment you are alerted to an impending emergency and continues as the emergency occurs.
Recovery—Happens as soon as the emergency is over, when efforts are focused on food, water, shelter, safety, and the emotional needs of those affected. Recovery is also the process of rebuilding your program and returning to normalcy after an emergency, which is why it can last hours, weeks, months, or even years in the most extreme cases.