BGCA’s Child Safety & Quality Assurance team is BACK with this special post for National Preparedness Month! Today Alan C. Mogridge, CQSA Director for the Northeast Region, tells us more about how to get ready and stay ready.
Well, if 2020 isn’t a sign for why emergency preparedness, planning, and review should be a top priority in both our work and personal lives, then I don’t know what is? So far, we’ve seen a World-wide Pandemic, Civil & Political Unrest, Hurricanes, Derechos, Tornados, Floods, Wildfires, Earthquakes, and yes, even Murder Hornets to name a few.
National Preparedness Month, supported by Ready.gov, is recognized each September to promote family and community disaster planning now and throughout the year. The 2020 theme is: “Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today.” Let’s talk about how your Club can be informed, make a plan, build a kit and get involved.
Emergency Planning & Review
Emergency planning and review is an important part of every Club’s risk management efforts. By preparing for emergencies, Clubs can reduce the impact of unexpected events, help to ensure less interruption to their services and quite frankly, save lives! It’s important to remember that plans should be site specific, communicated to all staff and volunteers, rehearsed through regular drills and evaluated & updated as needed.
As you develop or review your plan it is important to consider the different types of emergencies that may affect your Club. These could include medical emergencies, power outages, fires, or workplace violence. Some emergencies are geographically specific such as flooding, hurricanes and earthquakes. Others might be more specific to programs or services, such as kidnapping for childcare centers or vehicular accidents when transportation is provided.
Have a Written Plan
A written plan for the kinds of emergencies you may face should be prepared and distributed to all staff. It is also good practice to post the plan or make it available at key locations for staff use such as welcome desks or offices. The plan should also be adapted to off-site locations like busses or for field trips. Plans should list the chain of command, important contact information, locations of emergency equipment (first aid, AED, flashlights, etc.), exit routes, as well as various situational responses.
How to Prepare
Conducting Emergency Drills
This is where the rubber meets the road. Emergency drills prepare staff for the stress of emergency situations and ensure that emergency and crisis situations are handled effectively. All drill procedures should be written out and distributed to all staff members. Situational emergency drills, like those for specific types of crises like aquatic/drowning, medical/heart attack, missing child, weather emergencies, etc. should be conducted at least every quarter (best practice would be monthly), with a full evacuation drill twice a year. Consider one in the Fall and one in the Spring. In some areas, such as licensed childcare, there might be specific rules about drills. Check with local authorities to determine which drills must be done and how frequently.
Get Local Officials Involved
Emergency response personnel should be asked to review your written emergency procedures. They should also be invited to participate in and observe at least one drill per yearly to ensure proper coordination, and that the plan follows local standards. Be sure to notify the local EMS prior to activating any alarms.
To Surprise or Not to Surprise?
Remember, drills are conducted primarily to keep staff prepared for emergencies, not to unnecessarily scare staff or youth. Some organizations may choose to conduct drills as a surprise to everyone (except a few people) to more effectively evaluate the level of preparedness, while others may notify staff and youth that a drill is scheduled. It’s important to take a step by step approach to conducting drills. Organizations new to running drills should consider running drills with staff only at first and work up to involving participants or running surprise drills. There must be sufficient training and practice before considering surprise drills. It’s also important to consider that announcing drills lets staff and youth prepare and reduces the likelihood that anyone will become desensitized and under-respond in an actual crisis.
Trauma Informed Approach
It is important to note that in our work in out of school time, drills must be appropriate to youth development levels and take into consideration prior traumatic experiences, special needs, and personalities. General recommendations for a trauma informed approach to drills include:
- Prior to any drill, staff should be trained to recognize common trauma reactions
- Staff should monitor all participants during the drill and remove anyone exhibiting signs of trauma
- After drill completion, staff and participants should have access to mental health support, if needed
- Drill participation should never be mandatory, and parental consent should be required
- A developmentally appropriate communications plan describing the drill, and actions for the participants to take during the drill, should be given to all participants as advanced warning. Participants should also be given the ability to opt out and/or provide feedback
Document and Evaluate
All drills should be documented for future reference and at least one person should strictly observe the drill and take notes. After the drill is conducted, the procedures should be analyzed to determine if they are effective, and procedures should be modified if necessary. During a drill, special attention must be paid to evaluating how all departments interact. It is important to evaluate how effectively written procedures reflect actual behaviors.
Accommodating & Adapting for People with Disabilities
An important yet often overlooked part of emergency planning and review involves accommodating & adapting for people with disabilities. Organizations should involve people with disabilities in identifying needs and evaluating effective emergency response plans. Issues that have the greatest impact on people with disabilities include:
- Areas of refuge
- Access to their mobility devices or service animals
- Access to information
Natural Disasters, Severe Weather, and COVID-19
Finally, planning and preparing for hurricanes and other natural disasters can be stressful, even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are some special considerations for the safety of staff and youth, and some adjustments may need to be made. Visit the CDC’s Natural Disaster, Severe Weather and COVID-19 website for more information, but in general:
- Remember that this year is different
- Give yourself time
- Pack your To Go Kit
- Keep your distance
- Download the FEMA Mobile App
What can YOU do?
Boys & Girls Club staff can also access resources from the Child Safety & Quality Assurance team, including contact information for your regional Safety Director, at BGCA.net.
So, is 2020 your sign to be prepared? What are YOU going to do?