Imagine an emergency situation occurred in school! The teachers immediately directed the students according to their standard protocol. As they are evacuating the building, one of the students becomes overwhelm by his environment. He is having a meltdown and refuses to leave the room. How should his teachers proceed?
This scenario reminds me of an incident regarding my son. Two months ago, his school had a fire drill. As they were evacuating the building, my son became anxious and overwhelmed. He did not want to exit the building. His teachers mentioned that they carried him out in an attempt to follow protocol. As parents, we rarely think about the importance of an evacuation plan.
Throughout our IEP meetings, we’ve discussed progress, targeted goals, and expectations. We’ve voiced our concerns regarding subpar services. We’ve requested additional services and continue to advocate for our children. Unfortunately, we have yet to discuss the important role of an emergency evacuation plan. Like you, I promised myself that this topic needed critical attention. So, I generated a list of questions and concerns for the next IEP meeting. Below are some questions that resonated with me.
- Is there an emergency evacuation plan written in the IEP? 1b) If not, what is the school’s protocol during an emergency?
- Are teachers trained to assist exceptional needs children during a crisis?
- Are the students familiar with the emergency plan?
- In the event of a lockdown at the school, What steps would staff take to best assist the children?
This week, I read details of a senseless violent act against a special education teacher in the San Bernardino’s school district. My heart raced. I grieved for the teacher and her family. Additionally, I prayed for the families of her students who witnessed this heinous act. My passion and advocacy for an emergency evacuation plan grew even stronger. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a plan in place to best assist the students. Additional questions flooded my mind as I reflected on the above. I found myself thinking about children with mobility impairments or assistive communication devices.
Below are some additional questions that are equally relevant. I’ve separated them into three categories.
1. Assisting students with mobility impairments
- Is there an emergency evacuation plan in place for students with medical needs or mobility impairments?
- How will the school assist students who may require extra assistance to safely evacuate the premises?
2. Rendering medical services
- If a student is in need of Insulin or other medications? Are these items stored in an accessible place?
- How will an emergency medical professional engage an exceptional needs child to provide him/her with much needed medical assistance?
3. Using Assistive Communication
- As many of you may know, my son uses an assistive communication device. 1a.) Are images/symbols for emergency situations (natural disasters or man-made) downloaded on his communication device? If so, is he familiar with these images?
In life, emergencies are inevitable. Please, take the time to discuss, draft and write an emergency evacuation plan in your IEP. In addition, be sure to include practice drills to familiarize the students with the plan. The staff should receive training to prepare for the possibility of an emergency evacuation. Of course, the plan is not static. There should be ongoing revision and monitoring to ensure the plan’s success. If there are any issues or discrepancies, it should be noted and corrected to facilitate a smooth transition for our children. An emergency evacuation plan is an important goal that can save our children’s lives.