Emergency Preparedness for Schools and Child Care
Schools are a large part of our community in Johnson County. With 20-25% of the community in and out of schools each day, no other institution has more interface, which is why we have identified them as one of five key groups to engage at a deeper level. The preparedness level of schools, along with businesses, community organizations, large venues, and vulnerable populations, has a direct impact on the preparedness of the whole community and is important to the people they serve. Additionally, each likely have unique needs and considerations, warranting a tailored approach to emergency preparedness for each group. For example, children make up the majority of the population in schools, making schools especially vulnerable to the impacts of disasters.
Johnson County Emergency Management would like to develop a more comprehensive, structured community preparedness program. To establish a foundation for this effort, we have begun to conduct strategic planning meetings with each of the above mentioned groups. Participants include stakeholders in emergency management, public safety, and from the respective groups. With these meetings we hope to:
- verify current resources,
- increase awareness of preparedness levels and needs,
- strengthen relationships between these groups and emergency management, and
- identify best practices and opportunities to work together in enhancing the culture of preparedness in Johnson County.
Some of these groups are very broad and therefore can be broken down into smaller groups. We have divided "schools" into four subgroups: public schools, private schools, higher education, and child care/early education. The intention is to meet with each subgroup seperately and then regroup accordingly. So far, we have met with representatives from the public school districts and are in the planning stage for meetings with the other three subgroups. See our lessons learned from this meeting below.
If you are an individual or organization that could represent the "schools and child care" group and you would like to join this conversation, please contact us and let us know how you would like to be involved.
Lessons Learned from Public School District Preparedness Meeting
Key elements of a successful school preparedness program:
- Coordination - School leadership, emergency management, first responders, and other community partners continually working together to address preparedness in schools
- Communication - Establishing and maintaining open lines of communication among crisis response team members, community partners, staff, students, district personnel, parents and the media before, during and after an incident
- Planning & Training - Important to have clearly stated plans and procedures and ensure all stakeholders are aware of their role in implementing them
- Exercises & Drills - Maintaining an exercise schedule and ensuring plans and procedures are continuously evaluated
Concerns regarding school emergency preparedness in Johnson County:
- Lack of awareness regarding other relevant emergency plans and programs
- Lack of communication/coordination between school districts and community partners
- Prioritization of preparedness efforts (planning, training, exercising)
- Lack of available funding to address preparedness in schools
Potential solutions to close the gaps:
- Find ways to enhance communication between schools and the emergency services community to heighten awareness, share best practices, and identify opportunities for future collaboration
- Have Johnson County Emergency Management continue to bring schools together on a regular basis to heighten awareness, coordinate activities, and enhance preparedness efforts
- Find opportunities for school representatives to participate in ongoing community planning/trainings/exercises
- Establish a mechanism to ensure emergency management can provide preparedness and response information with schools when needed
- Identify ways to solidify support from organizations’ leadership in strengthening the culture of preparedness