April 23, 2001, is a day I will always remember. It was a beautiful Monday morning and literally out of what we thought was a clear blue sky a small tornado made its way through the little town where I had my family child care business. Fortunately no one in my home was injured and there were only a handful of minor injuries sustained by others. There was some property damage, but nothing significant. I remember feeling very sad about a little tree about a block from my home that had been lifted up from the ground, roots and all, and tossed in the grass. The recent severe weather across Iowa has been a keen reminder of why that day stands out so vividly in my mind… I gained a true appreciation for why practicing emergency drills is so important in child care.
For example, the children in my care knew where to go for tornado drills, but getting curious preschoolers to a safe place in the basement with my arms full of small children while a real siren was going off was a major challenge. I learned that practicing drills is as much for how you, the provider, will manage in an emergency situation as it is for the children. Practice, practice, practice, for your sake as much as for the children’s!
Parents will be frantic! The minute word got out in my small community that there was damage (remember, it was minor) near my part of town, parents were not only calling but they also arrived at my home to make sure the children and I were ok. In addition to ensuring you have emergency contact information, have you communicated with your families how you will get word to them in a weather related emergency? Discuss this often so that parents know and understand what they can expect.
There are lots of check lists and how to manuals for being prepared in an emergency. One example is from the Administration for Children and Families: Office of Child Care. It includes lots of links to other resources, including some state specific links. Also, remember to follow the specific guidelines set in your registration or licensing expectations.