COVID-19 has dominated the news in recent months. As a result, many people may not have heard that this spring’s severe weather season has already made 2020 the deadliest tornado year since 2012. Although it’s early in the season, the National Weather Service has confirmed 443 tornadoes across the country and many more have been reported. Southern states have been hit very hard, especially Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Texas and Louisiana.
Tornadoescan cause major destruction in their paths. They are capable of destroying structures, uprooting trees and throwing objects through the air. Tornadoes have been reported in every state and can occur at any time of the year, although most tornadoes happen in June. Tornadoes most often form from thunderstorms. Child care programs must take appropriate precautions to minimize risk and protect children.
During the spring, it is important for child care providers to review and update their written emergency plans, whicharea crucial tool in knowing what to do ifan emergency happens while children are in your care. Creating an emergency plan gives providers an opportunity to think of how to respond in various scenarios before they happen. One important scenario to plan for is severe weather, including tornadoes.
Understandably, many child care programs have been focused on COVID-19. Still, it is essential that programs also prepare for severe storms or tornadoes, in order to keep children and staff safe if a natural disaster occurs.
Many child care businesses that remain open during the pandemic are operating differently than in the past. Staffingpatterns, grouping and daily schedules have beenmodified to increase safety measures for children and staff. As a result, emergency plans must be updated to reflect these changes. Inaddition, staff must be trainedon the revised plans and children and staff need to participate in practice drills to ensure everyone is prepared.
If your program receives a tornado warning, you will need to shelter-in-place to ensure everyone is safe inside.When reviewing your written emergency plan, consider if it is possible for different groups of children and staff to shelter-in-place while remaining separate (socially distant) from each other. This may be different than what you've done in the past.
This is also a good time to make sure your emergency supply kithas the materials necessary to care for children in the event you must shelter-in-place. In addition to the normally recommended supplies, stock up on any materials needed to meet updated guidelines for health and safety due to COVID-19.
Child care providers who would like guidance on writing or updating their written emergency plans should contact their local Child Care Resource and Referral agency (CCR&R). You can find contact information for your local CCR&R here.
Child care licensing agencies, the local Health Department and emergency managers may also begood resources for child care providers who need guidance on how to safely implement updated child care guidelines during COVID-19, while making plans to keep children safe in the event of severe weather.
For additional information, tips, tools, and resources, please visit www.childcareprepare.org.