Natural Disasters and Head Start Facilities

As the risks of natural disasters increase, it is crucial to recognize their potential impact on Head Start facilities. This interactive guide provides a strategic and proactive approach to facility disaster planning and response so programs are ready to assess, prepare, respond to, and recover from natural disasters. It offers valuable information, risk assessments, and step-by-step plans, and helps grant recipients create a customized facility disaster management plan that addresses the needs of the specific program. Use the guide to establish resilient facilities that prioritize the safety of both children and staff by taking proactive measures and using the expertise in this guide. And if disaster strikes, you'll be ready to respond swiftly and effectively, ensuring the prompt resumption of program services.

This guide builds on best practices from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other leading agencies. It also complements the Emergency Preparedness Manual for Early Childhood Programs, ensuring you have all the necessary tools at your fingertips.

The Natural Disasters and Head Start Facilities interactive guide is now available on the Individualized Professional Development (iPD) Portfolio. Continuing education units are awarded upon completion.

What natural disasters could impact your program?

The guide covers eight types of natural disasters, providing valuable insights and strategies to help you maintain resilient facilities and implement emergency response systems.

  1. Earthquake: Understand the risks associated with earthquakes, even in areas prone to smaller tremors. Learn about building codes and necessary precautions to secure your facility.
  2. Flood: Riverine or Coastal: Prepare for rising water from various sources, including storm surges and melting snow. Find out how to mitigate flood risks and protect your facility.
  3. Hurricane: From the Gulf of Mexico to the Eastern Seaboard, hurricanes pose significant risks. Learn how to assess your facility's strengths and vulnerabilities in the face of these massive storms.
  4. Tornado and Hail: Tornadoes can occur anywhere, but they are most prevalent in the Midwest, Central Plains, and Southeastern U.S. Learn about tornado formation, their devastating potential, and effective response measures.
  5. Tsunami: If you are located in coastal areas, Alaska, Hawaii, or the Pacific rim, tsunamis are a concern. Find out how to identify warning signs and develop evacuation plans to get to higher ground.
  6. Volcano: Understand the risks associated with dormant volcanoes, which can erupt unexpectedly. Prepare for hazards such as blast effects, mudflows, and ash falls.
  7. Wildfire: Recent years have seen a rise in destructive wildfires. Learn how to respond to fast-moving blazes, follow responder advice, and ensure the safety of everyone at your facility.
  8. Winter Storm: Severe winter storms require special preparations, especially in terms of insulation and power loss. Discover how to keep your facility habitable during extreme snowfall and freezing temperatures.

How to Use the Guide

These key features and benefits help you make the most of this interactive resource:

  • Workbook Style: This interactive format allows you to compile reports and tailor activities to suit your program’s specific needs using worksheets, lists, and activities that facilitate hands-on learning and the point-of-use application of essential information.
  • User-friendly Features: A scannable format with expandable accordion tabs allows easy access to the most relevant information. Instructional videos and graphics aid comprehension and guide the implementation of foundational protocols and procedures. Electronically fillable PDFs support personnel in creating and tracking forms and maintaining program-specific contacts. Embedded links connect you to government agencies and online resources, offering maps, fact sheets, and other tools to inform your planning process.
  • Comprehensive Planning: With the Head Start director at the helm, review the entire planning, preparation, response, and recovery process. Learn how to assign key tasks and duties to staff members and form a dedicated disaster management team that guides your facility through all stages of disaster management.
  • Community Collaboration: Engage a diverse range of individuals from your community in the disaster management team. Tap into the expertise of staff, families, volunteers, and local, regional, and national emergency response professionals. Establish essential contacts and service agreements in the planning stage to ensure seamless coordination during a crisis.
  • In-depth Guidance: Open accordion tabs for important details and additional resources. Reminders, prompt updates, practice drills, and recommended trainings ensure staff readiness for assigned roles. Gain insights into essential information to share with your Head Start Regional Office, financial guidance for estimating costs, and relocating in case of major damage.
  • Effective Response and Recovery: Learn how to respond efficiently by adhering to preparedness protocols, whether it requires sheltering in place or timely evacuation. In the aftermath, assess the well-being of children and staff, evaluate the structure, and restore program services. If necessary, navigate the process of rebuilding with clarity and confidence.