As an early childhood educator, you are a front-line supervisor with custodial responsibility for tens or hundreds of young children. It's like a captain at the helm of a ship, guiding and steering its precious cargo through the waters. You want to maintain good order and safety as possible for the children in your care. Why? Because sometimes, a child's behavior can be so unpredictable. Effective responses that may demand immediate attention and timely deliberation is key in emergency and disaster response. The same effective response applies to emergencies such as fire drills or other security threats. Preparing for emergencies and disasters is key for teachers and the director, who is also concerned and marked by such unpredictability. Here's how to prepare for any emergency or disaster.
Establish an ethical procedure for how and when parents should be reached in case of a disaster or emergency. The absence of this will mean resorting to a more ad-hoc approach, which can backfire or lead to greater risk. Not preparing for an emergency plan could also indicate a lack of control, leading to trust issues. In short, have a protocol of what to do, the best way to deliver the news, and under what extremes to make contact. Also, ensure to communicate to parents with utmost delicateness. Not doing so can lead to emotional damage or even confusion - it's easier if the parents' staff relationship is secure.
Regularly check emergency plans to ensure they remain effective. There may have been a change here and there, such as a change in buildings or the number of employees. If the fire extinguisher area is under renovation, what will be done in case of a fire explosion? Enquire with the director or safety/security personnel to ensure the protocol is applicable and sound. In other words, safety plans are flexible. They are dynamic in nature and, as such, evolve along with the institution and the staff within it.
It's easy to get lost in the details and assume emergency exits are operative. Only to find out during a fire drill that the doors are barricaded with cobwebs and dust. If this is the case, your kids will get stuck in the building, or if they have to use the dusted-off emergency exits, they may get sick out of allergy or seriously injured. Check if the disaster management tools are working as expected. Test the fire extinguisher or ask somebody to do it for you - The fluorescent lights, the windows and all. Also, have a professional team regularly inspect the smoke detectors and fire alarms.
Ensure that you have a secure communication channel with the top management. It's easy to overlook that you have the right contacts with the director, yet if that fails, that can cost negatively. And this goes hand in hand with parents having access to your communication channels. Sometimes, it's not your fault that there's miscommunication. For example, consider network issues that may present themselves; in that case, have plan B ready to go. Plan B could be as simple as a sanatorium on the organization's side, fast aid on a third-party provider's side, or even calling alternative contacts.
Amanullah, S., Heneghan, J., Steele, D., Mello, M., & Linakis, J. (2014). Emergency Department Visits Resulting From Intentional Injury In and Out of School. Pediatrics, 133, 254 - 261. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2013-2155.
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MEET THE AUTHOR
Sheika Petteway, Chief ENCOURAGING Officer
She provides educational and leadership training to individuals and organizations. She is the founder and CEO of Elite Educational Enterprises and has several years experience serving in the early childhood education industry.