Practicing Your Preparedness Plan

Marco Beltran

It is lunchtime at the Early Head Start center. The three infant classrooms are busy with feeding babies. The toddlers are sitting down to their family-style meal. As everyone is enjoying their afternoon, a loud explosion occurs. The staff are startled and the children begin to cry. Staff look at one another, unsure of what happened. Over the PA system, the program director announces that the neighborhood has lost power.

If this were your program, would you know what to do next?

During National Preparedness Month, we encouraged programs to review and revise their Emergency Preparedness Plans. However, for plans to be truly effective, they need to be practiced throughout the year.

Why Practice?

An effective emergency preparedness plan helps your program to respond appropriately and quickly to circumstances that occur. It helps to reduce risks to everyone in the Head Start community. But, the only way that can happen is if staff, children, families, and community partners know the plan and their responsibility.

The Office of Head Start (OHS) does not specify an exact number of times a plan should be practiced. However, it is a good idea to do a run-through at the beginning of the program year and again before the seasons when hurricanes, tornados, or snow storms usually occur.

Before you practice, let your families know that their child will be participating in an emergency preparedness drill. Some children may get anxious during a drill and need to be reassured by their parent or guardian that everything will be okay.

Practicing your plans helps your program:

  • See what does and does not work
  • Build relationships with community partners and families
  • Ease fears and concerns about emergency situations
  • Make sure that accommodations have been made for children, staff, and families with special needs, including:
    • Limited English proficiency
    • Blindness or visual disabilities
    • Cognitive or emotional disabilities
    • Deafness or hearing loss
    • Permanent or temporary mobility or physical disabilities
    • Health conditions such as asthma and severe allergies
  • Build awareness of the importance of emergency preparedness
  • Identify areas in which staff may need more emergency preparedness training
  • Determine how to best revise your plans
  • Find out if you have the correct contact information for people and emergency agencies in your community
  • Determine if your communication plans work
  • See how changes in children's ages or developmental abilities may affect your plans
  • Improve your emergency preparedness plans
  • Support the health and well-being of children, families, and staff

For more information on what to include in your plan, check out the OHS National Center on Health's Emergency Preparedness page.

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

Practicing Your Preparedness Plan. HHS/ACF/OHS. 2014. English.

Last Updated: March 24, 2015