In the last 12 months alone, we have seen a series of disasters and tragedies that have impacted our nation's schools. The most notable of these were the violence at Sandy Hook Elementary and the destruction of schools in Moore and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Just as significant is the myriad of smaller crisis events that directly impacted schools but were not widely covered by the media The common denominator is the reality that no school is immune from crisis events and disaster. This week's series of blog postings will examine the implications of a report on disaster preparedness in schools that was recently released by the worldwide organization, Save the Children.
Save the Children is the leader of The National Commission on Children and Disasters, which was formed after Hurricane Katrina. The commission examines regulations and licensing laws in states to evaluate the level of disaster preparedness in K-12 schools and child care facilities and recommends four standards they deem essential for basic preparedness and child safety. These standards are:
1. A written evacuation or relocation plan for moving children to an alternate site that addresses multiple hazards.
2. A written family or parent reunification plan for emergency notification and reunification of students with parents.
3. A written plan specifically accounts for special needs children in emergency situations.
4. A written K-12 plan that addresses multiple hazards including evacuation, shelter-in-place, and lockdown situations. Fire drill and tornado drills alone do not meet this standard.
A state meets a given standard if the standard is mandatory, meets national guidelines, and is applied to all providers or schools.
In 2008, only 4 states met all of the four standards listed above. That number has increased to 22 in the current 2013 report. The states that met all the required standards were Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Among the significant findings:
- Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia failed to meet the minimum standards to protect children recommended by the National Commission on Children and Disasters. This means that they met 3 or fewer of the standards.
- Six states as well as the District of Columbia don't require schools to have a disaster plan that addresses multiple types of hazards. These states include: Missouri, North Dakota, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, and the District of Columbia.
- Four states do not meet any of the commission standards: Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, and Michigan.
Go to savethechildren.org/Get-Ready to see the specifics of how your state scored. In the next series of entries, we’ll examine each of these four standards more in depth.