Recent weather related emergencies have demonstrated our inevitable vulnerability in crisis situations. Although we lack control over when and how emergencies may befall us, we can control our ability to prepare an emergency plan of action in advance. Minimum standard requirements address a minimum level of preparation for a broad range of emergencies; however, catastrophic or extreme emergencies often require a more comprehensive plan.
We have prepared the following guidelines to assist you in developing an emergency preparedness plan specific to your operation type, size, and location. We hope that you will enlist the help of your local law enforcement, fire officials, licensing staff, and emergency preparedness agencies, such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army, in developing your plan. You may also consider inviting parents and officials with your local school district and hospital to participate on an emergency planning team.
Discuss the wide range of emergencies that may occur including weather related events, such as a hurricane, blizzard, or tornado, as well as gas/chemical leaks, bomb threats or explosions, and hostile situations, such as an intruder with a gun or hostage situation. Your planning team will help you identify various action plans for a wide array of emergencies, including what to do when your building or neighborhood becomes un-inhabitable.
Work with your planning team to identify a safe location where children and caregivers can be moved. Consider using a local hospital, church, school, or even a hotel as an alternative site. Ask the person in charge of the alternative site to meet with your planning team and discuss how you will communicate during the emergency, what accommodations would be needed for your group, who will help with the evacuation, and how caregivers and children will be transported to the alternative site. Discuss short term and long term plans, as well as contingency plans for using a temporary community emergency shelter, if the need arises.
Once your planning team has identified an alternative site, work with caregivers to identify responsibilities for each adult caregiver during the emergency. In addition:
- Ensure evacuation procedures and floor plans, including the location of closets, are up-to-date and shared with your emergency planning team;
- Plan for access to supplies and equipment such as diapers and formula if applicable, water and food, and medical/first aid supplies;
- Determine operating hours, staffing patterns, and other management issues including safety and security, accountability and care for children, and contingencies for recruiting and training additional or alternative caregivers; and
- Anticipate exceptions that may need to be made to your policies and procedures.
We also recommend your emergency evacuation kit include: cell phones/walkie-talkies, radios, flashlights, emergency contact numbers and names of persons authorized to pick up children, note paper, and writing instruments. Although you are not required by minimum standards to practice relocating to your alternative site, do plan to meet with your emergency preparedness team periodically to update your emergency plans.
Of course, all of the planning in the world won't be helpful if people don't know about it. Once you have identified what steps you will take to safeguard the children in your care, you'll need to agree on how to spread the word. Identify how you will communicate with parents and your community leaders regarding an emergency situation or re-location to an alternative site. Explore using local television and radio stations to keep families and agency staff informed. Lastly, after children and caregivers are safe, notify your local licensing office of your emergency situation. In addition, during widespread emergencies, DFPS will post helpful numbers and information on our agency website to assist in communicating with the community. We hope that you will never have to use your emergency preparedness plans, but when a crisis occurs, you'll be glad you prepared in advance.