Preparing for Emergencies
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin
Keeping the little ones in your care safe must be a top priority. After all, parents are entrusting the safety and care of their children to you during the time they are in your facility. When parents are comfortable with the well-being of their children, they are more likely to come back and be loyal members.
Being prepared for any medical emergency is a key to help accomplishing this goal. Unfortunately, you need to consider the possibility an emergency could happen at any time. Preparing for emergencies ahead of time is important, because a situation can be made worse if people don’t know how to respond.
There are several different types of emergency scenarios that can occur when children are in your care. To be prepared make sure you have emergency plans in place. Here is a snapshot of a few recommendations to consider around some of the most important elements to include. Every plan will be unique based on your location, size of your organization, and resource availability. There is no one size fits all however here are common ideas to get you started.
Develop basic plans with input from your childcare team and management. The discussion should include topics such as natural disasters (fire, flood, earth quake, etc.), as well as medical and security emergencies; plus associated evacuation plans.
- If you need to evacuate where would you bring the children? Determine some options that are nearby and safe.
- Who do you call in case of a medical or security emergency? Have numbers for police, fire, and hospitals posted and easy to access.
- How will you track all the children to be sure everyone is accounted for? What is the process to contact parents? Children’s check-in systems are invaluable here, but at a minimum make sure you have up-to-the-minute written records of who is in the childcare center and each child’s parent contact information.
Have a well-stocked, clearly marked, easily accessible first aid kit. The first aid kit is a first line of defense for minor injuries and illness. Know where it is and have the necessary supplies in it. Assign the job of regularly inspecting and restocking the kit to someone so it is always ready for use.
Consider having an A.E.D. (Automatic External Defibrillator) included with your emergency response supplies. They cost around $2,000. However, the cost for the training is minimal and can be rolled into CPR/First Aid training. Your facility may already have one; know where it is and who is trained in using it.
Ensure the smoke detection system is operable and strategically placed throughout the children’s area. Don’t set it and forget it. It’s important to frequently test the system to make sure it’s responsive. Practice with the children what to do in case the alarm goes off.
Confirm with your local fire department that the fire extinguisher ratio is adequate for your area. Make sure you have the right equipment and that it is easy accessible. All staff working in the children’s area need to know exactly where it is located and how to use it.
Make sure someone on staff knows where the shut off valves are for water, electricity and gas. These aren’t things children’s workers usually worry about, but it’s very important knowledge should there be a fire or flood. In addition to ensuring a few key people know the location, have the information written down and available so anyone needing to can find this information and act quickly if necessary.
Have a system for managing and tracking child allergies and medical alerts. Allergies are more prevalent than ever, and it’s important to be aware of any existing conditions for every child coming into your kids club. Maybe you allow snacks in to your children’s area, maybe you don’t; however, either way, for liability reasons and to keep kids safe, you need to be aware of any possible concerns.
- Children have a habit of sharing. What if a questionable food, such as peanuts, inadvertently gets ingested or touches another food? Perhaps snacks aren’t allowed, but there still might be food in that diaper bag that could cause an issue.
- Did you know supplies, such as some play dough can cause allergies in some kids? Be aware.
- Have an outside play area off your kid’s club room? That unexpected bee sting could be nothing, or it could be a huge something. Be aware.
- Medical conditions must be known and understood so staff is prepared in case an episode happens or a situation occurs. You can’t expect every staff member to know and remember the history for each child that comes in.
- Electronic check-in systems are one simple way to have allergy and medical information immediately available and understood. It is indicated on a child’s name badge or easily seen in the system associated with the individual child. Even if you use a more manual method such as pen and paper notes, be sure to have a system in place to capture any allergies and medical conditions.
Have a system in place that documents any incidents that occur. Incidents and accidents will occur and hopefully they’ll be minor. Regardless though, an incident report is an important step to protect all involved. Photos can be a very helpful element of the report to eliminate any confusion or future interpretation of what occurred.
- Parents will want to understand what happened, the treatment, and any next steps. A written report is a great way to capture this and structure the conversation.
- Management will want to be aware if an incident occurred to address any questions and use the details to implement steps to help prevent possible future occurrences.
- Having written documentation is important as well to protect the organization and reduce liability.
Have medical releases signed by parents. You never know what could happen. Be prepared so you aren’t trying to locate and contact a parent before being able to address a medical or emergency issue.
- Having a release signed ahead means you can attend first to the child’s needs then contact the parents.
- Keep the signed releases organized and accessible. Most check-in systems provide the ability to have documents digitally associated with the individual for easy reference.
Train your volunteers and security team in CPR and first aid. It could save a life. Enough said.
Consider creating an emergency flip book with different scenarios and response information. If there is more than one area the children are cared for in, have one in each classroom. Examples of items to include in the flip book are: what do to if the fire alarm goes off, evacuation process and directions, location of the first aid kit, who/when to contact if an incident occurs, etc.
This list doesn’t cover each and every situation or item to include in an emergency plan. Rather it is intended to start you thinking about what to include, and the importance of being prepared and knowing how to respond before something happens.
Once you’re comfortable with your plan, make sure you publish it, and share it. Train your staff and discuss it at staff meetings, training sessions, or one-on-one discussions. Educate yourself and your staff because good emergency planning could save your organization.