Running a child care business is very rewarding, but it also comes with a deep responsibility for the safety and well-being of the children in your care. Being prepared for an emergency as much as possible is not only an expectation, but it’s also a source of reassurance for yourself as a business owner and child care provider, as well as the parents of the children in your care.
How you prepare for an emergency is different from how many other organizations prepare for an emergency. After years in the child care industry, here’s what we’ve learned about emergency planning for child care providers.
1. Why Emergency Preparedness Matters
The word is in your business’s industry: care. Providing care for children means that you’re responsible for their safety and wellbeing when things are normal, but when disaster strikes, it’s important to have all the information and tools that you need to protect their safety as best as you can.
Emergency preparedness matters because emergencies are inevitable. By creating a plan and making a commitment to revisiting your plan to ensure that it is updated, you are taking ownership of the responsibility of caring for children while they are separated from their families and in your care.
Being prepared for an emergency is also a valuable plan to share with parents and give them confidence in your ability to care for the wellbeing of their children. Emergency planning provides the backbone to sound emergency response and protects children from short term and long term effects of an emergency as much as you possibly can.
When an emergency occurs, you can’t guarantee that you will have the time, mental bandwidth or materials to protect the children’s and your own safety in the best way possible.
2. Identifying Risks And Hazards
According to an article published in the Pediatrics Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “natural disasters, in-school violence, acts of terrorism, and the threat of pandemic flu demonstrate the need for schools to be prepared for all-hazard crisis possibilities.”
This means that many risks and hazards can occur outside of one’s control (which we know all too well with the coronavirus right now), while some are easily prevented or managed within the control of the child care provider. In addition, potential risks and hazards can differ for each child, depending on their personal health situation.
To help guide emergency planning for child care providers, it’s helpful to think of hazards as entities that fit into two categories: community hazards and site hazards. This helps you look at both situations individually and prepare as needed.
For example, a community hazard would be severe weather, a pandemic or a natural disaster. In contrast, a site hazard would be unrestrained heavy or potentially dangerous objects, such as a bookshelf, that would pose a bigger threat should an earthquake or other community hazard occur.
Next, you will want to prioritize which actions need to be taken first. This is done by assessing which areas pose the highest risk to safety, from immediate to long term. Guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics for assessing risks include an assessment of the probability or frequency, likely effects, the severity of impact, lead time for warning, potential duration and cascading effects.
3. Emergency Preparedness Best Practices
After doing a complete walkthrough of site hazards, determine what the best course of action is for each area: can you anchor it? Relocate it? Completely get rid of it? This helps you gain clarity and think of your site from top to bottom through the lens of emergency preparedness.
Following an assessment of your child care environment, you will want to create an emergency kit with all the necessary supplies to provide as much support for you and the children in your care for an extended period of time. This would include supplies such as communication tools, first aid kits, equipment and tools, children’s activities, and daily supplies like diapers, food, water and medication.
Additionally, it is very important to have easy access to every child’s emergency records. Having the correct information just a few clicks away means that you are able to provide information that you need as fast as possible. The information would include medical records, attendance, emergency contact information, and any other vital documents.
Child records can be made easily accessible when you use intuitive child care management software. Not only does the software provide easy file management, but it prompts you to ensure that all the important information is collected and stored for easy reference when you need it most.
When planning for an emergency, child care providers are best equipped when they already follow licensing guidelines, as these guidelines ensure that the child care business is set up with child wellbeing in mind.
4. Updating And Practicing Your Plan
As you begin to grow your business and the needs and dynamics of child care change, it’s important to revisit your emergency preparedness plan on a regular basis.
Once you have developed and documented an emergency plan, keep it somewhere where you can easily reference and update. Develop contingency plans for any staff that you may have on-site and off-site during a variety of different scenarios. This includes roles and responsibilities, a communications directory, facility map and an inventory of emergency supplies.
Of course, creating specific emergency plans means that as your staff changes and your business grows, your emergency plan will evolve as well. Be sure to set a regular schedule for an emergency plan review.
Emergency Preparedness For Child Care Providers
Good planning provides confidence and peace of mind in your child care business. When you’re equipped with a plan developed when you have a clear head, dealing with an emergency is much more simple in the moment.
Part of developing a sound emergency plan is having one place for all the documents and records that you could need in order to execute your plan effectively. If you’d like to learn more about how Early Learning Ventures and our services can assist you in keeping your emergency plan at-the-ready, contact us today.
Are you looking for more child care management information? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Child Care Management.
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Do you run an early childhood association made up of child care providers? If so, check out our Ultimate Guide to Shared Service Alliance.
Header image courtesy of JumpStory.