Suppose something catastrophic happened while your kids were at school. They are there a good part of the day, right? Unless you home school which would solve this little dilemma for you. But the majority of us send our kids off to school somewhere every weekday.
We already have a plan in place with the kids that they stay at school with their class/teacher/principal and mom or dad will come get them, but I’ve been thinking about this some and considering a small packet of “stuff” that could go in their school backpack without taking up much space/weight and give them some survival gear if they had to be stranded at school for a while or hike themselves home. I haven’t done anything about putting one together yet. I have too many questions that I want answers to first. Like these:
What “emergency” would warrant them actually having to stay at the school for longer than a day? There was a school last winter that the kids had to stay the night due to a snowstorm making the roads unsafe, but what situations might warrant a longer stay? Our school is easily within walking distance from our house, so under what circumstances would we not be able to get down there or my kids not be permitted to just come home?
This year they are all at the same school, but next year the oldest is headed to the Jr High which is another mile or so farther from the house. Still walkable, but they won’t all be together. And once they get to High School, that’s about 12 miles from the house in a different direction than the other two schools and they won’t all be there together either. Does who is in what school and the location of the school in relation to my house change my plan/strategy and what kind of stuff they might need in their backpack? Probably.
What does the school have to take care of their students if there is an emergency? Do the classrooms or faculty have emergency supplies? I know the lunch room is usually well enough stocked to get through a couple of days of feeding kids as long as there was power to cook the stuff. But do I trust someone else to take care of my kids in a situation like that? Or do I want them to have something in their backpack for themselves just in case?
Would they ever consider evacuating the school, and if yes under what circumstances, to where, and for how long?
Would the kids get expelled or something ridiculous if they were found in possession of a firestarting kit?
I guess my main question is if there is even a need for them to have gear in their backpack since the school is so close and our family plan is for mom or dad to come get them at the school if something happens. I just like to have options and give them security. I’m not home all day every day, so in some situations it might take a while for either me or dad to get to the school.
What do you think? And if you would or do send survival gear with your kids to school, what should be included?
Keep preparing! Angela
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Mamma Bear says
I am almost sure the school would not allow fire starting equipment if they knew your child had it but….if you seal everything up in a Mylar bag and write "open only in case of emergency" or something of the sort maybe they wouldn't insist on seeing what was in their kit.
I think a gallon Mylar bag would hold quite a bit… A few things I am thinking of are a bottle of water, granola, trail mix. hard candies, water proof matches, band aids, a Mylar blanket. I am sure others will come up with better ideas.
My family also needs to work on a worse case scenario and have a meeting place should we ever be separated and need to be rescued.
Good post….makes one think.
I think about this post in a very different way. I don't have kids, but I do teach high school.
In my school, every teacher has clean up kits in case of illness or bleeding. Most teachers have some form of food, even if it's just a large bag of pretzels in their desks. In the labs, we have heat sources (hot plates or Bunsen burners) on which we could cook if necessary. Our school (and I believe all schools) have backup generators for emergency power only. I know from experience that in my school, water works when the power is out.
Personally, I snagged a second clean up kit, and keep that in my desk. I also always have at least two non-refrigerated meals in my desk, a couple of water bottles, and chocolate of some form. I have a toiletries kit, gum, mints, and a bandana. I also have a pocket knife that I keep on me or locked away. Beyond that, I have a car kit and could feed and clothe a couple of kids at least.
In coming up with a kit for your kids, I would pack Cliff bars, a water bottle or two, a light stick, a bandana, mylar blanket, Vitamin C cough drops, and some thing like a blast match. If they have lockers, send them the first day of school with an extra jacket and a change of clothes in a large ziploc. Clothes cover all manners of emergencies, from accidents to cold snaps.
Your kids school might have all sorts of disaster plans in place, you should check with them.
I live in earthquake country and I know that the elementary and junior high kids here all are required to bring a small amount of stuff to school at the beginning of the year of to be stored there "just in case." The schools have some emergency supplies as well.
Most school will suspend kids for matches… but if the kids know firestarting, send flint or rubbing sticks. There are probably teachers there with matches…. so…..
Space blanket or poncho that folds up to 3/5 size. Protein bars. Vitamins in original container.
There will be food there even if it can't be cooked…and a lot of schools have gas ranges, so cooking could still happen if electric is out.
If the water goes out, they will be getting those kids home one way or the other if at all possible.
Emergencies would be probably lockdowns due to hazards or people outside of school, roads out, floods, etc…. or warfare or nuclear, biohazard conditions.
Tess Pennington says
I have been thinking of this very issue lately. In our school district, if an emergency happens and the school is on lock down, the parents will not get their kids back until school officials give the ok to come collect our children (This ony makes me want to home school even more).
But I have been thinking of putting a small "just in case" emergency kit in their back packs. The items that I have thought of were:
-mini first aid kit (band aids, neosporin, etc)
-pediocare strips in case they get dehydrated
-in case of emergency contact information
I understand they are in good hands at school, but as long as they are away from me, I worry.
I no longer have any kids in school..but it is an interesting idea..as is your blog.
My daughter has a note she keeps with her at all times and states that she is to come home immediately, that if the teachers, headmaster, administration has a problem they can call me, but in no way are they to delay my child. I also state that I appreciate their concern, but ultimately, she is my responsibility. We have a "code word" that she would receive by text from me or someone at our direction.
She also has some things in her truck as have been mentioned.
I do believe that I am at an advantage as she is at a private Christian school that backs up to the woods. Last year when her brothers were at the same school before we brought them home to homeschool, she was to grab the boys and meet me at a predetermined spot in the woods.
I will note that when I first gave her the note last year, she was apprehensive. She would have to respectfully confront authority and proceed knowing that they probably wouldnt be happy and try to stop her. I told her she was to give them the note, let them have a moment reading it and then start moving towards the door. She was not to wait for them to finish the note or to get permission from them to go. She was to just go.
She is good with it this year and we have not had a reason to use it.
I almost forgot – if I do give her the code – she is to bring all her books home – chances are she wont be returning – or at least for a while….
I am already worried about her at college….arghhhhh…….
Jeanne S says
I believe the most important thing you can send with your child for emergency preparation is knowledge. They may lose items in a kit, but nobody can take away what training they've been given. Even though my girls are both grown (although the 18-yr-old still lives at home), we have a family plan as to where each of us should go in a disaster, based on where we are when a disaster occurs (the metro area we live in has a large river right through it; in a really bad earthquake, some of us might be stranded on the wrong side of the river). The girls think the preparedness efforts of my husband & I are a little nuts — despite us having lived through Mt St Helen's & several earthquakes — but they do listen and retain what they're told. My younger girl says preparedness info makes her paranoid, but I'm confident that in a true disaster, she would hold herself together far more than most adults.
As far as "get home" gear goes, you should check out the school policies for releasing the kids. In many schools these days they "lock down" the schools and don't let anyone out until whatever "emergency" has passed.
As far as sending stuff with them I think it is a good idea on general principle as it trains them to think about taking care of themselves. As you note, knowledge is the most important thing.
A space blanket, a magnifying glass, a couple of pieces of flint and steel, a small block of magnesium, char-cloth, paracord, fishing line, spare shoe laces (especially leather boot laces), a small first aid kit, and a small flashlight would probably pass muster in almost any school. Knowing that almost any small, heavy, and hard object tied on the end of a length of paracord or a bootlace makes a handy weapon could be a good thing. Leatherman makes some pocket tools without sharp blades that are intended to make it through airport "security" and they would probably be OK at school. A small electronic device powered by a 9V battery with a couple of spare batteries would probably be ok as well. If the child happened to have small bag of steel wool in another pocket then that would probably be ok. If the child knew how to use the steel wool and the 9V battery to start a fire, well, knowledge is a good thing.
A small hiking size filter water bottle and some coffee filters would be a good thing.
If school is only a short distance from home then FRS radios might be a good thing to have.
Having SOS type survival rations in the backpack would be good as well. They probably won't taste good enough for the kids to want to eat them as a snack so they would probably be there in a real emergency. Nuts and granola bars would probably be long gone.
What an interesting post! I agree with the other folks… When I worked in the schools, the three drills we practiced were: earthquake, fire (or general evacuation) and lock down.
The only one I could foresee them not letting children go is in lock down. And I guess it's possible that it could last a while, if the threat wasn't resolved quickly.
I know the elementary school I worked at had emergency supplies in a trailer next to the school. But in a lock down situation, those would not be accessible. So I think having something in a backpack the child always has with them would be ideal.
I'm not sure what I'd put in there… Honestly, lock down drills are kind of scary (you all hide and make your room as dark and quiet as possible), so I think a small stuffed animal or other comforting toy would be great for the child to be able to hold. And maybe a small church book that could help them feel calm and peaceful.
And the food and blanket and tools for a weapon sound great, too.
I'd love to hear what you end up deciding.
I am lucky that my son goes to a private military school that has boarders, so they have everything on campus for living and emergencies. As far as my daughter, she is in middle school 6 miles from our house. She has been instructed to leave the school in an emergency and run to her step-brother’s house that is about a mile away (she runs 5K’s so she can easily run a mile with a backpack). She protests over carrying extra stuff in her backpack, so I don’t force the issue, though I should.
fire mom says
My children (boys, 7 &8) were just recently involved in an emergency disaster situation at school. On a windy January afternoon I sat in line at Starbucks before heading off to a job interview. I looked north and noticed a very small chimney of smoke. Within minutes it grew into a frightening scene. A mothers worst nightmare. My children were in the valley and a wildfire was racing towards their school, propelled by 80 mph winds. There is one road to the school. By the time I reached the road, hp was closing it down and denying access. Without hesitation I made what I believe was the right choice (I will do ANYTHING to save and protect my children): I drove my big suv straight through the intersection and hit 95 mph heading towards the school. Visibility was limited ant there was raining ash. When I reached the rural school, there were 2 police officers outside, no firetrucks, and no busses for the children. Homes around the school were engulfed in flames. Children were locked in the classrooms. I ran to each room, grabbed my boys, niece, and one other friends daughter. We were hit with embers and blowing debris as we ran to the car. The heat was unreal. I had a bottle of water and an iced green tea within reach- the children tried to wash their eyes as barreled out of there. As we left, the busses arrived to evacuate the children with literally seconds to spare. In the past two months we have become extremely prepared as a family. My children have always carried food and a qt. of water in their backpacks- but now we have a survival pack and a plan. They know evacuation routes (not recommended running from a wildfire w 80mph winds), they know how to put on goggles and masks, they know to wet coats and place them at the door (shocked to see none of the teachers took measures), rip curtains off windows, and turn off the lights. I am not blaming the school: They had 12 minutes from learning about the fire to having the children on the bus. It was a ferocious fire. If there is ever a time where I CAN NOT get to them, I have prepared them the best I know how, and as parents isnt that our job? To teach our children. ive attached a link with pictures.http://www.rgj.com/article/20120119/NEWS06/120119022/Brush-fire-threatening-homes-at-north-end-of-Washoe-Valley
Wow. Sounds like you did the right thing. That was a dangerous situation, and having your kids in harm’s way is every parent’s nightmare. Thanks for the comment.
What a wake up call! I never even thought of telling my kids what to do in case of a fire at school! Thank you for sharing your story! I am taking some time today to sit them down and drill them on survival during a fire at school! Kudos to you for putting your kids first and doing what it took to get them safe! Funny how, as mothers, we become raging wolves to protect our young!
I didn’t read through all the comments, but have you asked the school where they evacuate to? Some counties bus all children to the county fair ground, some just walk them across the street to a church parkinglot. I still remember being evacuated from my school as a child – a hurricane had hit sooner than anticipated, and the area was flooding. Our teacher was shouting to hold on to one another, and I remember her death grip on me – I was tiny and she thought I was going to float away…
I have been working with the staff at my son’s elementary school for the past three years to update their supplies and their knowledge of what to do if there was any kind of disaster. When my friend and I started, we inventoried the kits the PTA had provided 18 years earlier. Our state/district does not provide any funding for emergency preparedness, and only provides one garbage can of supplies per building. Our inventory turned out moldy kits, leaking water, 15 year old water, and not a single sterile first aid item (all were so old they were falling apart). The staff was shocked…although not a single one of them had thought to check this before. Our PTA funded our efforts to replenish and update existing kits as well as build new kits for new classrooms. In addition, this year, we’ve recommended all children bring “comfort kits” to be kept in their classrooms. These smaller kits should contain: small snacks (jerky, fruit leather, cracker/cheese, fruit cups), water or a juice box, small first aid kit, socks and stocking cap, a flashlight, small toy or book, emergency blanket, and a letter of reassurance from their family. The goal would be that these would be useful in a short term emergency that requires the kids to be at school a few hours longer than expected. My kids also have small ziplocs in their backpacks with additional food, glow sticks and a flashlight. My older son also has a firestarter and tinder. I doubt they’ll need these items, but I’d rather they have them and never need them than need them and not have them. I’m in the process of building Go Bags for them right now too. That’s much more involved!
This is an old post, but i’m going to comment anyway. With the lack of funding and shortage of teachers & the appalling conduct of schools and officials as of late I think these are great ideas. But to those of you that think schools are probably prepared, I completely disagree. Personally, our school had a lock down due to an escaped criminal in the area and none of the parents were informed. We found out that our kids weren’t coming home when the bus didn’t show up – I have a kindergartner requiring me to physically be at the bus stop (wonder how other parents who were working felt!). We had to call the school to be told to pick our kids up at the gym, they refused to tell us what happened. Well, until the next day when a letter was sent home with each child explaining. They had no system or plan in place to even notify parents. We had no idea what had happened. The parents were outraged, but nothing has been done & most in our community aren’t able to home school. So, preparing your child is something that shouldn’t be over looked or pawned off onto incompetent and underfunded school employees. And I say underfunded because even if your teachers/ school is wonderful and prepared, they can only do so much when they are so poorly funded & understaffed.