Events in the news have many schools and programs taking a second look at their emergency plans. Let’s think what an emergency – or even a simple fire drill – must be like for a young child who doesn’t fully understand the language!
10. Establish class buddies – a more experienced, more fluent or more confident child can help a newcomer through drills and actual emergencies.
9. Establish family buddies too – a more experienced family can connect with new families to make sure they understand emergency procedures and they be a familiar contact to answer questions.
8. Create a video of your school’s fire drill or sheltering procedures to make it easier for new families to understand and to explain to their children.
7. Simplify written policies to be sure that families who are new to English or who have lower literacy levels can truly understand these important messages.
6. Simplified materials are also easier to have translated in all of the languages needed in your program. Keep language info with emergency contact list to assist authorities in communicating with families.
5. Use multiple means of communicating so everyone has a chance to receive and comprehend messages – phone, text, or email.
4. Create picture cues – a list of photos or icons for specific notices – such as a lock with a time on it to indicate school is closing early. Use these as text messages to families or as visual cues to children about what is happening in an emergency.
3. Take families and children on a walking tour of your building and of nearby places where you will shelter in an emergency – this is better than handing out a written policy and hoping they understand what’s in it.
2. Update regularly! Double check emergency contact information with all families on a regular basis and provide periodic reminders and clarifications about emergency procedures so no child or family is overlooked.
1. Learn about each family’s culture and experiences so you can create culturally sensitive emergency plans and information. Children and families who have come from experiences of violence or natural disaster may react in unexpected ways and may need additional reassurance.