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California School Emergency Planning & Safety Resources

Instructor: Jessica Keys
When it comes to handling an emergency, a little preparation goes a long way in keeping people safe. If you're a school teacher or administrator in California, check out this article to explore some of the disaster planning resources available to you.

Emergency Planning Resources for California School Administrators

Some emergency situations may be anticipated to an extent, such as severe weather. However, sometimes you aren't given much advance warning for a disaster, if any. That's why it's important to be well prepared for any emergency, whenever and wherever it may happen.

The California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) is working to keep California's schools safe and ready with information for administrators. Some of these resources are outlined below.

Emergency Response Manuals

Cal OES has produced a manual for school administrators titled ''School Emergency Response: Using SEMS at Districts and Sites.'' All California public schools must incorporate a Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) into any emergency plans. This manual covers the SEMS process, what current state and federal laws expect of schools and administrators, plus several guidelines to follow while creating school disaster plans and training programs. A free copy of this manual can be found online on Cal OES's website (www.caloes.ca.gov).

Crisis Response Boxes

In response to an increase in violent incidents (such as school shootings) on school campuses across the country, the California Attorney General, along with the California Department of Education's Safe Schools and Violence Prevention Office, have designed a Crisis Response Box program to be implemented in every school in the state. This box is primarily an aid for the organization of crucial information in a crisis situation, including:

  • Campus and area maps and photographs, blueprints, schematics and evacuation maps
  • Teacher/employee and student rosters, student photographs (or a yearbook) and information on students with special needs
  • Alarm/sprinkler and utility valve shutdown procedures
  • Contact information for emergency services personnel and key responders
  • Emergency first aid supplies and a master key

School employees are trained how to prepare and maintain the boxes, as well as how to work with each other and local authorities in the event of an emergency.

  • For more information about violence in schools and its effect on staff, Study.com's lesson on Teacher Safety in Schools contains valuable information and statistics for educators.

Community College Guidelines

For community colleges, the Chancellor's Office has its own set of standards and guidelines installed to keep campuses safe and prepared. Check out California's community colleges at extranet.cccco.edu for more information about emergency preparedness (a part of the Finance & Facilities Planning Division).

Continuing Education Courses

Cal OES also recommends the use of several resources from FEMA, including classes from the Emergency Management Institute (EMI). In addition to classes on general emergency management, EMI offers a National Incident Management System (NIMS) training program; the purpose of NIMS is to allow government agencies to coordinate effectively during a disaster. This program can be found at fema.gov.

The Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center (rems.ed.gov) also provides nationwide training and support for the development and implementation of institutional emergency operations plans.

Emergency Planning Resources for Teachers, Students and Families

School leaders interested in providing teachers and parents with resources they can use to improve their own preparedness, as well as that of their students, might want to consider the following organizations and programs, all of which are recommended by Cal OES.

The American Red Cross

The American Red Cross (redcross.org) offers group first aid and CPR training to teachers and school staff as well as a Ready Rating Program designed to help members assess school safety and track improvements in school preparedness.

Be a Hero

Looking for a fun way to get the classroom involved in emergency planning? FEMA created the free ''Be a Hero!'' program for grades 1-12. It encourages good safety sense in tandem with awareness, cooperation and communication through age-appropriate lesson plans and activities available at ready.gov/kids.

Be Aware, Be Prepared

Fourth grade students in San Diego County learn valuable information about geology, natural disasters and safety in Be Aware, Be Prepared, a joint project between the county offices of education and emergency services. This program culminates in a research project where students present their findings. Read more about this program, as well as San Diego County's other emergency programs, at readysandiego.org.

Get Ready 5th Grade Bay Area

Fifth grade students can also learn about emergency planning with Get Ready 5th Grade Bay Area (kidsgetready.squarespace.com), a program that is currently being implemented at schools in several Bay Area counties. The program teaches students how to create emergency plans for home and school, how to make an emergency kit and how to safely evacuate a home or building.

Additional Resources

Along with the programs mentioned above, check out Study.com's library of related material for teachers and students of all ages. Available resources include individual lessons and lesson plan ideas that can be completed at your own pace. Here's a sample of what you can find:

Lesson Plans for Teachers:

Just For Kids:

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