Schools In 10 States Able To Protect Kids In Emergencies With Jack And Squat

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tornadoHow ready is your kid’s school for a natural or man-made disaster? Probably pretty okay, as long as you don’t live in Michigan. Or Iowa. Or one of nine other states that don’t meet basic emergency standards put in place by the federal government in 2010. In honor of National Emergency Preparedness Month, Save The Children has just released its 2014 Disaster Preparedness Report, and the results are a little alarming.

There are four basic emergency requirements for every state, and they aren’t what I would call “extreme.” According to the Save The Children report, states are required to have:

1. A plan for evacuating children in childcare.

2. A plan for reuniting families after a disaster.

3. A plan for children with disabilities and those with access or functional needs.

4. A multi-hazard plan for all K-12 schools.

Right. Okay. This all sounds…pretty basic. And yet, the Huffington Post reports that:

 21 of the 50 states don’t require schools and childcare providers to have basic emergency plans, and 67 percent of parents don’t know if their child’s school practices emergency drills frequently…Two states don’t meet any of the national standards, and eight states only meet one standard.So why haven’t all states met these requirements yet?

So who are the worst offenders? Save the Children scored each state based on their ability to meet the federal standards. Michigan and Iowa were given scores of zero. Zip. Nada. Hasta.

Michigan says that that’s because they put disaster plans in the hands of each county rather than the state. This doesn’t appear to working out real well. Iowa, on the other hand, has responded to the report by making September “Iowa Preparedness Month,” which I believe is celebrated underground with bottled water.

The other eight states on the list, all of which received a score of one, are Oregon, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota (oh Dakotas!), Arizona, Georgia, and Maine. How is this possible? I mean, I’m glad we’re having fire drills and such, but let’s say — oh I don’t know — a tornado hits our school. I guess as long as the tornado causes a fire, we have a plan in place.

But we can’t lay all of the blame on these states. The main reason for the lack of preparedness in some states is, of course, money. Save the Children found that of every $10 in federal emergency preparedness grants, less than 1 cent is targeted towards children’s safety, and budget cuts have taken a lot of emergency preparedness money away from states. States are also spending most of the money they do get on recovering from disasters rather than preparing for them. It’s hard to make a plan to get kids reunited with their parents after the next disaster when those parents are still homeless after the last one.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a parent with kids in school, but I would want my kids protected before any other single thing in my state. I’m more reassured by the idea of having a plan in place to prepare for an event than by knowing that there’s only enough money to help us clean up afterwards. It’s hard for people to put their money into “what could happen” rather than “what just happened.” Obviously we need both, but we also clearly need to put more value into “what if” when “what if” involves our children.

(photo: Minerva Studio / Shutterstock)


  1. Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

    September 16, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    You know. I don’t think I’ve ever even thought about this. I know my kid’s school has an evacuation plan, and I know they do regular drills, but I don’t even know how one would go about finding out about the other aspects of this. Interesting…

    • Jen TheTit Whisperer

      September 16, 2014 at 10:13 pm

      In Ohio they have some acronym but they discuss their emergency preparedness in various situations from active shooter to flooding/tornado. I don’t know if it is a good plan but a plan. I didn’t know it was a thing until I took a crisis class

  2. Guinevere

    September 16, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    I live in Montana. I am waiting for the Yellowstone Super Volcano to blow. I want to see the preparedness plan for THAT.

    • keelhaulrose

      September 16, 2014 at 8:53 pm

      Head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye?

    • ShanLea

      September 17, 2014 at 1:17 pm

      Me too. I’m way north though, so I’m just waiting for the day that the Canadians have enough of our sh!t and invade! 😉

  3. Michael Weldon

    September 16, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Not sure that money is the issue here. One bright administrator (at each school who is already on the payroll) should be able to come up with all 4 plans in a week or two. For a lot of the schools all you would have to do is copy and paste the wording of the plans from someone else and tailor the physical plan to your school layout.
    Pretty sure that the real issue is that its not high on the priority because no funding cuts are tied to disaster preparedness.

    • Rachel Sea

      September 16, 2014 at 7:27 pm

      Without money one can’t provide staff hours to create disaster plans, or have them printed up, let alone stock emergency supplies that allow the plans to be carried out. I wrote the disaster plan for my office, in no small part by copy and pasting from others, but tailoring it for my building required an understanding of the materials and architecture that the average person who has not worked in construction does not have.

    • Michael Weldon

      September 17, 2014 at 10:11 am

      That seems a bit odd-you need to know the details of the construction materials for disaster prep instructions? I wrote a ton of them (fire/flooding/toxic gas/CBR-D) when I was in the Navy and it was a copy paste and then drill once every 6 months evolution for most oddball disasters that could happen on a ship. The instructions had to know where the hazmat and ordinance was but I never really cared if the deck material was made out of 1/4 or 1/2 steel or if the piping in the space was copper or aluminum…
      It seems like the requirements here may be at fault-you can probably make an instruction that people can drill to for an earthquake or tornado without the level of specifics that you seem to be demanded to provide. An 80% solution that exists is far better than a 100% solution that takes years and years to do.

    • Rachel Sea

      September 17, 2014 at 12:36 pm

      I’m in earthquake country, in an old multistory building. One needs to know which stairs are unlikely to be sound, and which windows are plate glass, and which are tempered when planning evacuation routes.

    • Michael Weldon

      September 17, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      Sounds fairly interesting actually. Good luck finishing it up.

  4. Tisa Berry

    September 16, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    My school’s tornado plan sucks. My science teacher calls it the “kiss your ass goodbye drill.” Of course, she didn’t say ass, I added that. But we face the lockers downstairs, squatting, with our hands over our heads. It’s a two story building, and there are GLASS paneling about 1/6 of the way down from the ceiling. So it’s 1 part glass and 5 parts wall. The middle schoolers get to go into a dungeon, erm… basement in the middle school.

    Edited because I can’t f-ing spell.

  5. Rachel Sea

    September 16, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    In the aftermath of the massive tornado that decimated Moore, Oklahoma, I was shocked to find that most schools in OK have no tornado shelters. I understand that the culture is not one to spend government money for things that are for a narrow demographic’s benefit, but I don’t understand why all those individualist parents haven’t gone out with shovels and personally dug cellars for their kids to take refuge.

    • keelhaulrose

      September 16, 2014 at 8:58 pm

      I love in Illinois. Our tornado plan had us going to a basement built partially underneath the pool. So, you know, if something (perhaps the giant steel beams used to build the natatorium) were to come crashing into the pool and it cracked the water would go… right to where we were sitting. Flooding and sewer backups, too. I told my teachers I’d take my chances in the bathroom, window or no.

    • Rachel Sea

      September 17, 2014 at 1:24 pm

      A bunch of the kids who died drowned in a flooded basement they couldn’t escape. It’s just nuts to me.

      I’m in CA, where our natural disasters aren’t the kind we run to shelter against, but all the schools I attended had some type of bomb shelter, because of the Cold War.

    • ThatOneGirl

      September 20, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      If you are referring to the May 20 tornado, that information is inaccurate. There is no basement at Plaza Towers. The children that died did so when the walls of the building they were in collapsed. The flooded basement information grossly inaccurate.

    • ThatOneGirl

      September 20, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      They parents of the seven children that lost their lives inside Plaza Towers Elementary school that day are trying desperately to get shelters in the schools. It’s an uphill battle all the way against a lot of people playing politics. They are currently out getting signatures to get shelters on the ballot and let the voters decide.

  6. Youthier

    September 16, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    Interesting. I live in Michigan and my son’s preschool explained disaster protocol to me in orientation. I could have sworn she said it was a state requirement but I guess not.

    Of course, my county has two nuclear plants so evacuation plans are well publicized everywhere, the tornado/meltdown sirens are tested monthly, and every pharmacy has potassium iodine for free so maybe it’s a local requirement.

  7. guest

    September 16, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    WTF I live in Iowa

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