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How to Help Your Children Be Prepared at School

Trade in your swimsuit and sunscreen for a backpack and school books. For many across the nation, school is starting this month!

Since your children spend so much time at school, it’s important for them to know what to do in an emergency if they are in class when it occurs. For example, would they know where to meet you? How to contact you? How to avoid danger?

All of these items are important aspects of emergency preparedness and as a parent, you can help your children be prepared for any situation that might come their way. Here are a few tips that can help you prepare your kids for the coming school year:

1. Meeting Place
Does your family have a meeting location? Choose a location that is well known to your family that they could meet in after an emergency. Choose a place that they could walk to. If there were a natural disaster, the school would most likely keep track of your children until they could guarantee that you were picking them up.

You might also consider placing an emergency two-way radio in a pocket of your child’s backpack that they would use only for emergencies. That way they would be able to get in contact with you directly.

2. Communication
Many times a disaster will knock out parts of the communication network. Even if the network hasn’t been knocked out, it’s often bogged down with the majority of people checking in on their loved ones. A text message is an easy way to let others know that you are OK. A text message will send easier during an emergency than a phone call.

3. Stranger Danger
Not all emergencies are natural disasters. Be sure to review with your children rules about talking to strangers. They should know the 1-2 designated people that you trust. They should also know how to say no to a stranger.

Often, malicious strangers will pose as authoritative figures to persuade children. Be sure that your child understands that they can trust their teacher and school officials. Make sure you trust them too.

4. Illness
If hand sanitizer commercials have taught us anything, it’s that germs spread at school. Consider purchasing a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer that your child can attach to their backpack. Also consider sending them with a water bottle so they don’t have to use the school drinking fountains.

5. Emergency Pack
Prepare an emergency bag of contents for your child. Encourage their teacher to organize the students to all do the same. Included in the bag would be some light emergency items like a pouch of water, some freeze-dried food, extra medication they might need and some identification and contact information.

6. Identification Pack
Work with the school staff to keep some identification at the school. For example, include a family photo in your child’s file so that if a stranger tries to pose as a parent and take your child out of school for the day, the staff will easily be able to notice. Make sure that your contact information is up to date so that if the school needs to contact you, they can.

7. Make It Fun
There are many online resources that you can use to teach your children about emergency preparedness. FEMA has a webpage with comics, crosswords, wordsearches and more that each teach children about emergency preparedness.

What have you used?
How have you taught your children about emergency preparedness? Comment below and share your insights and how to teach children!

15 thoughts on “How to Help Your Children Be Prepared at School”

  • Gabe

    When I made their small sized B.O.B's I explained what we were putting in them and why. The contents went in, the bag went on the shoulders, and it was an adventure pack to them , a cool thing "just in case something like the hurricane happens and we need to leave". They picked the bag and I picked the items. They picked the color of water carrier too.

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  • Dave W

    Before putting extra medication into an emergency bag that your child takes to school you need to talk with school officials and/or the school nurse. Some schools are very strict about children and drugs, even things as simple as Advil can be a problem.

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  • Andrea

    Our high school doesn't allow water bottles. Not even in lockers.

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  • Crush

    Remember that most schools prohibit bags, electronics, etc. in the classroom - and in an emergency they probably will not be able to get to their bag. What they have on their person is what they'll have to work with. Most important is mind set; what to do/not to do in a situation, not to rely on gadgets and gear, and not to panic. Schools are loaded with food and water - that shouldn't be an issue *inside* if they are kept there in a disaster. Weapons of course are prohibited. Nurses office are (presumably) staffed with competent medical personnel and basic supplies. Even if they are forced to evacuate, they won't be able to retrieve bags first.
    When it comes to schools, consider active threat situations as the most serious and make sure your children know how to react - even if teachers or other students freeze or panic. Even kids should be able to identify what a gunshot sounds like, and know how to immediately react. A bag with some of this gear IS great - for travel to/from on the bus, going to friends houses, etc. The idea of a FMRS style radio is great - just make sure they have duplicate ones at home to play with. Codenames and radio games (hot/cold, hide & seek, sardines, etc) are great fun for everyone in the family to get used to using radios. They are much more reliable than cell phones in a disaster, though very limited on range.
    Make your children think, not be paranoid. Adapt the gear, skills & expectations as they get older and more independent. Don't scare them - make it fun to be self-reliant.

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  • Steve R.

    It's important for the parents to also ask the school what their Emergency Plans are and what actions need to be taken, by the students and the parents. Discuss this information with your child then make your Family plan. If your school cannot provide this information, maybe it's time to become an advocate for the safety of all children in the school system.

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  • Bill

    I like the idea of a photo in the child file of who may pick them up.Teach them simple first aid and a meeting place if something happens on the way home.

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  • mrs julie a neary

    getting the balance right between preparedness and fear that features in a disaster is sometimes a problem
    it is sometimes easier to let school decide what should be in a pack but benefit familys are aware of the costs not in a benefit
    and some feel left out rather than do without items

    school do sometimes have group or teacher packed items for a bus out
    and letting you know might come later

    numbers that cant be got thru to are often a problem for the humble school secretary...who cannot trace a parent and follow up procedures occurr even sometimes in the uk
    find out what they are...as a parent

    but most kids will follow a teachers guidelines unless its a disagreement with a parent

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  • Reid

    I think you need to teach them how and when to escape and evade school authorities when it is in their best interests to do so and find their way back to their family.

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  • Karen S.

    Reid,

    You have just written the MOST important comment that I have read or thought of. Schools follow whatever "plan" some out of touch individual may have devised. Usually these plans involve "hide in place" for gunshots (we've seen how well this works.... NOT!) and other absurdities. Talk with your school to see how realistic their emergency plans are and then educate your children on what YOU want them to do. I personally have chosen to home school so as to not have to deal with most of these situations, but teaching your children when to go against instructions that may cause them harm, might just save their lives. When I was a child, they lined us up and made us walk home in the open for nuclear bomb drills. No child or parent spoke up and in case of a real attack, we would have all been dead. No joke. Make sure you know your school's plan and agree with the reality of it. Then teach your children accordingly. Remember these are the same people that came up with the idea that "Gun Free Zones" are the best way to keep children safe and made your children 'fish in a barrel' for any lunatic that comes onto campus armed. These people have your children for the better part of the day, five days a week. Make sure you know what they have in place to protect them. You may be dumbfounded at what you hear and need to educate your children on what they should really do to be safe. There are times that disobedience could save their lives. FWIW, my brother is a teacher and his school's safety plans dumbfounded me. Chances are, you are not going to like what you hear when you talk with school officials.

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  • Frank

    I understand that parents and students have to comply with "the rules", but we as citizens have rights too and I would encourage the school to plan for emergencies and allow parents and children to have a say in those plans. There is no danger to anyone if the kids have a few non-lethal and useful, legal supplies. It's actually a benefit to the school for the students to have food, medical supplies and communication gear and the understanding of how to conduct themselves in an emergency. Sometimes staff members tend to quote the rules and not listen to students or to act downright idiotic and deny them use of inhalers and they treat them with condescension because they view them as kids who don't know anything or have to be checked and reprimanded. Our world is run by morons afraid of everything and unwilling to learn about anything that goes against what they've been taught to believe by morons before them.

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  • Patty

    I've been a teacher in 5 districts for 24 yrs. They all had great emergency plans and successfully stopped the few incidents that almost occurred. There are levels of incident command so "offenders" don't know all the routines to get around. If every student decides to do their own bug out, it would be chaos. Students are allowed to have electronics and "nonlethal" supplies in every school I've worked at. In my current campus, students, teachers and parents got a text alert of a lockdown. Not all schools are run by "idiot staff". Some educators were once smart waitresses without a degree and great bug out ideas. I wish they gave equal press to all the life saving heroic acts teachers do every day. We keep kids from abusing their peers medications, which is why they're not allowed to hold meds. The "rules" for meds are there because parents sue if their child is not as capable of self medicating as they thought or if another child shares it and has an allergic reaction. Rules are there to protect the 90% of the "kids who don't know anything"(Frank).

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  • Judy

    After reading the book Day of Wrath, I believe that you should make sure your kids know the situation and how to escape quickly. All the schools I know of will have a school lock down as soon as they think something is wrong and that may be too late and they will lock down the enemy inside the school. The child should leave the school by any means possible and head for home or a safe place until the parents can pick them up or the emergency is over. A bulet proof back pack is manditory and should be with the child at all times. Get with your school boards and demand they listen up. Take as many parents with you as you can and if they don't listen pull your kids out of that school and home school. Keeping your child in public school makes no sense if they end up dead before they can graduate ! We are no longer living in a safe world so take as many precautions as you can. Dafety first always.

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  • KLT

    I was a middle school teacher for many years, until progressive illness forced me to stay home. While I agree with Patty that most schools are quite organized and can handle emergencies in this post-Columbine society (my husband is law enforcement and that tragedy made both educators AND LE completely overhaul what both knew about emergency/active shooter response), I also agree with Reid. I now have two children in middle school, both in 8th grade, and have taught them there are certain times when they are to leave everything but their tiny BOB and get home.

    Prepping and survival is something we discuss and practice on a regular basis. We have activities frequently. It's not something you can simply talk about a couple times a year, especially with children. It must be in their mind so often it becomes habit, second nature. Consider the standard academic school year, with three months off in the summer: teachers spend the first couple weeks of each school year reviewing material from the year prior, because children's brains have gone to mush in that brief amount of time. How can one expect material kids to remember what to do in an emergency, while stressed, with their classmates and friends likely in a panic around them, if what they need to know doesn't come to them as an automatic response?

    Teach it, drill it, practice it...until they can do it in their sleep! They may depend on it. The time is now.

    If you're wondering what my kids have in their BOB, it isn't much, but they are only 1/2 mile from home. They are to leave their backpack where they are (classroom, most likely), but take their mini-BOB, which is just a baggy basically, due to their proximity to home. They are to just grab their keys, as keys can be used for safety, and their keyring also has a whistle and light; they have a water bottle at all times (we're in southern Arizona, so that's SOP here); an emergency drinking water pouch; 1 Millenium Food Bar; band-aids; gauze; rubbing alcohol wipes and hand sanitizer.

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  • Pete

    Good article. I just wanted to make one additional point concerning stranger danger. I've seen children say to police officers that they are strangers and they cannot talk to them and even run away. It's cute in a non-emergency situation. However, if there were an emergency and this is how your children think, this could be very detrimental. Make sure in your stranger-danger education with your children you make it a point to drop in to your local police station and fire department and let your children interact with them and see what type of uniform that they wear, so they know in a real emergency that they can trust these folks too.

    I also wanted to make a point about schools being "safe" since the heightened awareness of school shootings. If some of the teachers that weighed in are in safe schools, you are blessed. None of the schools I have taught in would I consider safe in the least. The active shooter drills we did were horrendous and we only did one per school year. The building itself had numerous points of entry where just anyone could waltz in. Also, after school the school was unlocked so kids could come and go for activities. This could allow anyone to come in after hours and stay holed up somewhere all night. Teach your children what to do if such a horrendous situation should occur in your school. Every school is different. You have to make the call what is best for your child in his/her environment. Get to know that environment, know what safety protocols your school has (or doesn't have) and make a plan. I know the plan in the schools I was in was sub-par to say the least.

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  • TJOzzie

    While I agree with many of the comments, there are exceptions. The competence of the school teachers and officials is one of the biggest variables.

    There was a child in our district (3rd or 4th grade, as I remember) suspended for bringing a plastic table knife (packed by her mother) to the lunch room to cut her apple because she was having some dental issues and couldn't eat it normally. "Zero Tolerance"

    A couple weeks after the Sandyhook incident, the Martial Arts Dojo (school) I taught at put on a series of 'Train the Teacher' seminars. It was Local Law Enforcement approved (and attended), and was based upon the best advice that the FBI could supply. It was VERY well advertised, both in the schools and on the local TV news. It was, of course, free of charge to any and all. I was there in a Red Man suit volunteering my time as were my son, the head Senseis (teachers at the dojo), and a couple of other high-ranking students. Two local TV stations covered some of the training we put on.

    Of the several hundred teachers in our district, less than a dozen showed for the first class, and only a handful came to the second. Nobody signed up for the third one. A week later, we were scheduled to present to the teachers at a local Day Care, but it was cancelled due to lack of interest. I was amazed and outraged. I was very glad that; 1- my 3 kids all already knew what to do in an active shooter situation and how to adapt their training as the situation dictated, and 2- our youngest was already in college and no longer under the 'care' of the school district.

    If there is an emergency, whether natural or man-made, your kids best chance is to be personally knowledgeable and to follow their training. Sometimes that will coincide with what the teacher or other official is directing. Sometimes they can enhance what the official is directing. And sometimes they have to rid themselves of the dolt giving them potentially disasterous advice. Most importantly, they have to be aware of their surroundings, and capable of determining the competence of the official currently directing them.

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