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November 04, 2015
Totally Ready for Anything
How Prepared is Your Child's School?
by Carolyn Nicolaysen

School shootings, bomb threats, bullying and much more have been in the news more and more the past few weeks and months. Is your school prepared? Is there a plan? Now is the time to find out.

The United States Department of Education has made the following recommendation: “We strongly urge schools to have a plan for dealing with crisis, including crisis such as school shootings (including lockdowns), suicides, and major accidents, as well as large-scale disasters (including natural disasters), such as the events of September 11, that have significant impact on schools throughout the country… Schools that do not have a school safety plan should implement a plan immediately.”

Teachers, administrators, school support staff, and classroom volunteers, are the first responders during any emergency which occurs in our schools, but are they prepared? As I researched I discovered that over a three month period there was a minimum of three school lockdowns every day somewhere in the United States. I was amazed at the places where these were happening, from small rural schools, to large inner city schools and in every state. I also discovered that in my own community the Department of Homeland Security was informing local police departments that a terrorist attack on small schools was a real possibility.

Having been involved in a school lockdown myself, I know how frightening they can be. In my case there was a gunman on the loose after he had shot someone in an apartment complex a block from the school. I was in the counseling office between class assignments and there was plenty of food and water – but no restroom. Immediately I thought of my son, and realized he was in band. Hallelujah! There was a restroom in the music building. As we waited for several hours, parents began arriving to pick up their high school students. There was no plan in place, so we watched as parents and their younger children walked around outside the school while we were in lockdown and there was a gunman close by. There was no plan beyond locking the students in.

So what can you do? First, determine what disasters might threaten the schools your children attend. Should the schools be prepared for earthquakes, flash floods, wildfires, or loss of power during winter conditions? All schools should be preparing for terrorist attacks, lockdowns and school fires.

Now you can help them prepare by asking some specific questions of your school principal and school board. If the questions have never been asked, the solutions are probably not in place.

Does your school have a written emergency plan? If so, ask for a copy and read it carefully to determine if it answers the following questions. If they don’t have one, it is time to get involved and help create a plan or improve upon the one already in place.

A good plan should include:

A Crisis Management Team. This team should include administrators, teachers and classified staff members who all have specific assignments during an emergency. A clear chain of command should be in place and individual assignments and responsibilities should include:

A Communication Plan:


Security Procedures:


Disaster Supplies:

Supplies should be contained in backpacks or buckets with handles so thy can easily be moved to an evacuation area.

Now that you understand the needs that may be unmet in your schools, get involved and get busy. It should not be difficult to get school boards and community members involved in making sure classrooms are adequately supplied.

You may need to help supplement school or district budgets to accomplish your goals. Parents are usually more than happy to contribute a few dollars to make sure their children are protected. Some schools are now requiring either a personal preparedness kit or parents are assessed an amount to provide a classroom kit. Remind the community that even if students never use the supplies you have on hand, schools are often designated as shelters during a disaster and they will be invaluable at that time. We all know relief agencies have warned us to be prepared to be on our own for at least the first 72 hours, even in a shelter.

We can never protect our children from all emergencies, under all circumstances, but we need to make that our goal. We need to work to be as prepared as humanly possible. Whether in elementary school, high school, or college, our children deserve our most thoughtful efforts to see that they are protected and provided for in the event of a real emergency – which is proven to be possible in any neighborhood or community – even yours!

How is your evacuation month coming? Questions? Ask Carolyn at

Visit Carolyn’s Totally Ready facebook page to ask questions and get answers to your self-reliance questions.

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