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Emergency Planning Guide for Child-Serving Organizations

Step 3:   Identify the outside people and organizations that can help you prepare for and respond to an emergency

In this step, we identify people and organizations that you should consider coordinating with during your emergency planning. Coordinating with these types of organizations can not only improve your emergency preparedness and response capabilities, but can also improve recovery efforts for your organization and the people you serve.

This section focuses on the people, organizations, and infrastructure that will serve as resources during a disaster, but it does not discuss the supplies that you will want to assemble in advance—obtaining and storing supplies is discussed more in Step 4 of this guide.


This guide is designed for organizations that provide services to children, primarily those where children's primary caregivers are not present—e.g., a school, a child care center, group foster home, or overnight camp. This type of organization will need to incorporate these types of individuals into emergency preparedness activities:

  • staff members
  • children
  • children's primary caregivers, such as parents.

You will also want to include other individuals in your planning, such as other specialty service providers (e.g., pediatricians) or law enforcement officials. These other individuals are discussed below, under Organizations and Infrastructure.

You will want to involve staff at your organization in emergency planning in these ways:

  • Assist with developing preparedness plan.
  • Understand and practice communication plans that will be executed during an emergency.
  • Become familiar with the plans for different emergency events and be prepared to execute them.
  • Review emergency procedures at least twice a year.
  • Practice with children and caregivers every three months to ensure that everyone is aware of the plan and adequately prepared.
  • Encourage staff to prepare their own families and homes for emergencies.

A primary goal of your emergency preparedness plans will be to keep children safe during an emergency, reunite them with their parents or other caregivers in a quick and safe manner, and restore a sense of calm and routine activity as quickly as possible. Therefore, your plans for different emergencies will include actions and supplies that are designed with children's safety in mind and also oriented toward reuniting them with their caregivers. In advance of an emergency, you will want to review the plans with the children and practice some of the activities. This is discussed more in Step 7. A special consideration for younger children and those with special needs is the degree to which they are able to understand the nature of an emergency event. It is also important to recognize and respond to children's emotional trauma resulting from an event. For more information about the special vulnerabilities of children during disasters, read the RAND Corporation technical report titled, "Enhancing Public Health Emergency Preparedness for Special Needs Populations: A Toolkit for State and Local Planning and Response" (see Chapter 6).

Given that one of the primary goals of your emergency preparedness plans will be to reunite children quickly with caregivers, it is essential that caregivers be involved in your emergency preparedness planning. This can take the form of including them in the planning process to ensure that your plans meet their needs, communicating plans to them effectively, and perhaps even including parents in practice exercises. More information about involving parents in emergency planning is discussed in Step 4.

Organizations and Infrastructure

During an emergency, you are likely to rely on individuals from other organizations to provide key response services, such as emergency medical care, provision of real-time information, or restoration of electrical power. Also, these organizations' emergency plans may include procedures for your type of organization and the populations you serve. It is important to locate in advance which organizations and local infrastructure will be able to assist you for each of the priority risks you identified in your Risk Assessment. While most locations will have some responders that can assist during emergencies—such as police, firefighters, and EMTs—there is wide variation in the availability of other types of responders, such as mental health providers or hazardous materials removal specialists.

When considering who should participate in the planning process, it is important to coordinate with the community level social service network. Involving the following will help ensure adequate and effective strategy planning:

To help you identify which organizations and infrastructure are relevant to the risks that you are likely to face, we have assembled Recommended Links on Emergency Planning on most of the risks that child-serving organizations in the United States are likely to face.

Resources Worksheet

In the event of an emergency, it is important to have access to your local organizational and infrastructure resources.

As part of your planning, you can use our Resources Worksheet to help you identify and collect the appropriate information you may need. Be sure to print this information and save the file in an easily accessible place.

Emergency plans should involve a review of this worksheet at a minimum of once a year, or at the beginning of the school year or service term to ensure the contact information is current, but reviewing the information for accuracy twice a year is optimal. The Resources Worksheet may be shared with staff, other child-serving organizations, and caregivers as a helpful emergency preparedness tool for everyone.

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