Child Care Licensing
Prepare for emergencies
Planning for emergencies is not as fun as creating activity plans, but it is just as important for the protection of the children in your care—and for your business. You and your staff already have learned to manage and deal with all the unplanned events that occur daily when caring for children. Why not use your skills in planning and flexibility to prepare for potential emergencies?
Your emergency preparedness plan needs to be specific and address natural disasters that are likely to occur in your area such as tornadoes, flash floods, or hurricanes. Other types of emergencies need to be covered too, including medical emergencies, fires, chemical spills, power outages, missing children, bomb threats, and lock-downs.
While preparing for the health and safety of children is your primary responsibility, remember that children’s emotional well-being is reflected in your ability to handle emergencies. As you plan and practice procedures, devote some time to how you will reassure and comfort children who are frightened and possibly injured. Does your emergency action plan include systems for keeping children together, activities that you can do without equipment or common supplies, and techniques for managing children whose routines are significantly disrupted?
To help you get started in creating or updating your emergency preparedness plan, consider the action steps below. Note that this checklist includes more than what is required by Licensing. It is meant to be an additional resource that you and your staff may choose to use.
Note: Anything marked with a check mark (✔) is currently required by minimum standards in Texas.
As you prepare to develop your plan, do some research. Review the listed resource materials on emergency preparedness and the action items that are currently required by the minimum standards. Use the Internet and personal relationships to learn what your local fire and health departments, school districts, and city planners offer as resources. Make sure you plan for all types of emergencies—natural, health, and human-caused.
After you determine what your plan must include, determine who you want to help create the plan. Consider using the skills of your staff, governing board members, program parents, and community members.
Written plan essentials
Consider the following items as you develop your emergency preparedness plan. Remember, the checked items must be included for compliance with Child Care Licensing rules.
✔ Emergency evacuation and relocation procedures
✔ Identify a designated safe area outside as well as inside the facility
✔ Identify a designated alternate shelter away from the facility—such as a church, school, or hotel
✔ Determine how children will be relocated to the safe area or alternate shelter
Plan how children with special care needs, including those that are not ambulatory, will be relocated
Determine how necessary medical equipment and supplies will be transported
✔ Design and post an emergency evacuation and relocation diagram that includes at least two exit paths from each room (unless a room opens directly to the outdoors at ground level)
✔ Determine how children in attendance will be accounted for once evacuated to the designated safe area or alternate shelter
✔ Determine that the facility’s emergency telephone number is on file with Child Care Licensing
✔ Plan how and who will communicate with local authorities such as fire, police, emergency medical services, and health department
✔ Determine how and who will communicate with parents
✔ Plan how and who will communicate with Child Care Licensing
✔ Essential documents
✔ Ensure that current parent and emergency contact information for children in care is accessible and on file
✔ Ensure that current authorization for emergency care for each child in care is accessible and on file
✔ Determine how and who compiles daily attendance lists
How will the plan address these issues?
Locating the emergency kit and making sure it is complete and ready for use.
Emergencies that occur when children are away from the facility on a field trip or when staff members are transporting children.
Handling medications and medical equipment used by the children in care.
Filling vehicle fuel tanks.
Managing land lines and cell phones when there is no electric power.
Disconnecting gas, electric, and water lines. Note: After the emergency, never attempt to reconnect gas lines yourself; always call the gas company for assistance.
How and with whom will procedures be shared?
Review the plan at least annually to make sure it is up-to-date.
✔ Review the plan with employees during orientation.
Review the plan at least two times a year with staff during meetings.
✔ Inform families that your facility’s plan is included in your operational policies, and that they may review the plan upon request.
Review the plan with families at least once a year.
Make sure teachers have created developmentally appropriate activities to help inform, prepare, and reassure children for possible emergencies.
✔ Post the emergency evacuation and relocation diagram in every room used by children and in a prominent place near the room entrance or exit. Note to licensed/registered child-care homes: The plan does not have to be posted, but it must be accessible to the substitute caregiver.
✔ Practice the plan. Conduct fire drills monthly and severe weather drills every three months.
What to do if disaster strikes?
Stay calm and put your communication plan into action.
Evacuate, if told to do so. Listen to your battery-powered radio for news and instructions.
Stay clear of downed power lines.
Check for injuries and give first aid.
Turn off the main gas valve and open windows if you suspect a gas leak.
Help children cope with the disaster according to their developmental levels: Hold babies, redirect toddlers, and give preschoolers specific, distracting jobs.
What operational procedures might ease the impact of an emergency?
Confirm that Licensing has on file a current telephone number and e-mail address so that your facility can be contacted in the event of an emergency.
Determine the provisions of tuition payment policies during an emergency.
Consider and plan for how staffing patterns might change during an emergency.
Formulate and implement a plan for the storage of sensitive information, including child and staff records. Assure the safety of both paper and electronic records; consider the best methods of electronic backup, including off-site storage.
Explore short- and long-term options and consequences of a worse case scenario in which you can’t return to the program site for an extended period.
Stocking an emergency kit
Include the following items in your emergency kit—and check it regularly to make sure all supplies are ready to use. In a facility with more than one room of children, reduce bulk by providing a kit for each group of children. Consider placing the items in a cooler or suitcase with wheels to make it easier to move.
Emergency contact information for every child
Authorization for emergency medical care for every child
Complete first-aid kit including sterile gloves, gauze, soap, sanitizing solution, antibiotic ointment, bandages, thermometer, tweezers, sunscreen, and moistened towelettes
Nonperishable food, including formula and baby food for infants
Disposable cups, bowls, plates and eating utensils
Non-electric can opener
Classroom pet care supplies including food and water
Nose and mouth protection masks, plastic sheeting, and duct tape
Hand washing supplies
Paper towels and toilet paper
Flashlights with extra batteries
Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
Trash bags and re-sealable bags
Tape and scissors
Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
Blankets for warmth
Resources on emergency preparedness
AgriLife Extension, Texas A&M University. Online training course: Keeping Kids Safe—Emergency Planning for Child Care Facilities. http://texashelp.tamu.edu/002-protect/disaster-preparedness-for-childcare-centers.php.
American Red Cross. Plan and Prepare. www.redcross.org/prepare.
Centers for Disease Control. Emergency Preparedness and You. http://emergency.cdc.gov/preparedness.
Federal Emergency Management Agency. Plan, Prepare, and Mitigate. www.fema.gov.
National Weather Service. www.nws.noaa.gov.
Save the Children. U.S. Center for Child Development and Resiliency. http://uscenter.savethechildren.org/SitePages/default.aspx.
Texas Department of State Health Services. Are you Ready—or Not? www.texasprepares.org.