Take Time to Prepare During National Preparedness Month

Marco Beltran

Emergency situations arise suddenly. When they occur, crises and disasters can be devastating to our programs and communities. Head Start and Early Head Start programs take time to prepare in advance so the negative effects of an emergency can be reduced. Although programs cannot anticipate everything that might happen, comprehensive planning for each phase of an emergency can give staff, families, and children some peace of mind.

September is National Preparedness Month. During this month, we at the Office of Head Start (OHS) encourage programs to review and revise existing preparedness plans as needed using the updated Head Start Emergency Preparedness Manual [PDF, 997KB]. Programs also can explore the new supplemental pieces around responding to crises and tragic events:

OHS worked with the Office of Human Services Emergency Preparedness and Response to update the Manual for 2015. It provides the latest information and resources around the three phases of an emergency: Preparedness, Response, and Recovery. In addition, two new chapters have been added to address the mental and physical needs of children during a disaster. Chapter 7 addresses the mental health and emotional needs of staff and families. It assists in identifying signs of trauma in children, such as clinginess, bedwetting, irritability, or trouble sleeping or eating. It also offers ways to help children cope. Chapter 8 discusses considerations for accommodating children and staff with specific access, functional, and other needs.

We wanted to provide programs with more tangible tools to help with preparedness planning. The supplemental materials mentioned above contain more than 20 planning checklists on a variety of local and regional disasters and site-specific hazards that could occur during the program year. Sample letters are included for staff and families. They can be used to communicate that programs have safety plans in place in case an emergency does occur.

National Preparedness Month is a good time to plan. It also is a time to begin to practice the plans that are in place. This month, schedule the safety drills that will occur throughout the program year. Practicing emergency preparedness plans helps everyone to know their role in staying safe.

For more information, please visit the Emergency Preparedness page.

Marco Beltran is a Program Specialist for the Office of Head Start.

Take Time to Prepare During National Preparedness Month. HHS/ACF/OHS. 2015. English.

Last Reviewed: September 2015

Last Updated: September 25, 2015