Is your After-school Program Prepared for an Emergency?
A lot of thought and time goes into safety and security during the school day, but what if something were to happen during after school hours? Many schools overlook the need to include after school programs in their emergency planning. However, emergency situations are just as likely to occur after school as they are during the school day. These tips will help you ensure your school is prepared and ready for any crisis, no matter what time of day it is.
Have a plan
While it is a smart idea to parallel the school’s plans and procedures into the after-school program, some procedures will need to change. Certain rooms may be closed during after school hours, while normally locked gates may be accessible. Be sure to evaluate and prepare for how your program’s emergency plans may look different during after school hours.
When creating a plan, we also suggest getting a second opinion. Creating an emergency plan should ideally be a collaborative effort. After school staff, office administrators and teachers can all offer a different perspective on what to look for in a well created emergency plan.
Practice, practice, practice
Safety drills are not just for the school day. In fact, they are possibly more important during after school hours, as the safety concerns may vary. Take time to think about how you may need to handle safety procedures and drills differently after school, and continue to practice drills throughout the year. Be sure to also include drills that are specific to your location. For example, certain schools may want to include earthquake or tornado drills.
Know your attendance at all times
While it may seem like a no-brainer, it is extremely important to know the location of each child and the total number of children on site. Keeping track of children during after school hours becomes even more important. In an after-school program, children are leaving at various times throughout the afternoon, and may switch locations more frequently. This creates more risk, and makes it even more important to have the most up-to-date information at all times.
It may be beneficial to use an app like Kinderlime’s AfterSchool and Childcare Management Software to help with student sign in-out and attendance tracking. An attendance tracking software allows you to know how many students are signed in at any given time, where each child is located, and can even provide student emergency contact information.
Keep parents informed
An emergency situation is every parent’s worst nightmare. However, you can help alleviate parent worries and concerns by keeping them informed of the safety measures taken at your after school program. Use technology to help make parent communication efficient and easy. A parent communication app can be used in the case of a real life emergency to keep parents informed of their child’s safety. Small efforts like this help remind parents that their children are in safe hands.
Hold frequent trainings
Emergency situations can take many different forms and it’s important to be prepared for anything. Hold frequent safety trainings for staff, and do not forget to include staff that may only work seasonally, such as coaches or volunteers.
A training session can be used to identify staff for key roles, make them familiar with all emergency procedures, and most importantly, help build confidence in their ability to handle any emergency situation. When your staff is confident in an emergency situation, they will make better decisions and can be a calming influence to the children in their care.
We hope these tips help prepare your after school program for any emergency, and help keep students safe from the moment they enter and leave school, regardless of the time of day.
This article was written by Megan Van Ostaeyen at Kinderlime.