Facts for Living: Safety tips for back to school

By Rebecca McFarland, Frontier Extension Agent

Many parents, grandparents and school faculty and staff are preparing for the start of the 2015-2016 school year. As kids head back to school this fall, parents and guardians should spend a few minutes discussing back-to-school safety tips.

080714-facts-for-living1There are several easy ways parents can get kids ready to safely face a new school year. One thing that most parents may not consider doing is preparing their child or grandchild for a disaster while at school.

Start by assembling an emergency kit for your child’s book bag or locker. Similar to kits families are encouraged to build for home use, it should include basics such as water, food, clothes, a small flashlight with extra batteries and a first aid kit. For a complete list, see www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/34326

Be sure to check with your child’s school to confirm what is allowed on campus. For instance, schools prohibit pocket knives and medicines outside the nurse’s office. Also, don’t forget to include an emergency contacts card sealed in a plastic bag to keep it from getting wet. A form can be found on the FEMA website at www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/documents/34330 (family communication plan).

Disasters can occur anytime night or day. If children are not at home, they should know how to contact you or an emergency contact outside of the state. They should also know where to meet if your neighborhood is evacuated and they can’t get home. Draw a map and make sure your child is familiar with the location.

Parents and guardians should also talk to children about how to react in case of an emergency. The goal is not to scare them, but to give them the confidence to know what to do even if a teacher or other adult is not around.

Parents can request a copy of a school’s emergency operations plan and ask about the precautions the school is taking to protect against possible intruders. As it’s appropriate, share the details with your kids so they are prepared to react.

Lastly, for kids who walk or ride their bikes to school, parents should accompany them several times to make sure they are comfortable with their route. Then, mark the route on a map and include places where they can take shelter from bad weather or for other safety related reasons.

Examples of safe places include other schools, community centers, friends’ homes, libraries and police and fire stations. Designating these areas ahead of time hopefully will help your child feel safer traveling to and from school and give you a greater peace of mind.

Seal the marked map in a plastic bag to protect it against general wear and tear and store it in the child’s school bag for easy reference.

The better prepared we are for potential emergencies, the more we reduce our risk and increase our ability to stay safe. This applies to both adults and children.


McFarland_RebeccaRebecca McFarland is the Frontier Extension District family and child development agent. For more information, she can be contacted at Frontier Extension’s Ottawa office, 1418 S. Main, Suite 2, Ottawa, KS 66067, or call 785-229-3520, or email [email protected].


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