Child Care Center Disaster Response Handbook



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Take care of staff

Disasters affect all of us. Center staff members will likely be concerned about their own family members, but will also be needed at the center to help the children in their care. Child Care Center Leadership should provide staff with information and assistance in preparing their own families for times of disaster. Each staff should have an out-of-area contact for their family, disaster supplies at home and in their personal vehicle, and a plan for connecting with their other family members. If staff members are individually prepared, their personal worries will be reduced and they will be better able to focus on helping the children in their care who rely on them.
Also ensure you have emergency contact information for your staff, in the event something happens to a staff member during work hours. Be sure to keep this information in your go-kits along with emergency contact information for the children.

Steps to Take During a Disaster



Building and Site Evacuation

Building Evacuation:


  • Make a quick assessment of the situation in the classroom and of any injuries to the children or adults.

  • Director/Designee evaluates the evacuation route to be sure that it appears clear of obstructions.

  • Director/Designee gives instruction to evacuate.

  • If possible and time allows, have children take jackets and coats.

  • Staff should take the following items:

      • disaster supplies which are stored (where)

      • class/staff attendance sheets and visitor sign-in sheets (where)

      • children’s emergency and medical information/supplies (where)

      • cell phone, if available.

  • Staff should assemble children 2 by 2 to evacuate the building (preferably one teacher leading the children and one teacher following behind). Infants will be evacuated by: (how) (ex: put into rolling evacuation cribs.) Young toddlers will be evacuated by: (how).


  • Take attendance; if safe to do so, search the building for anyone missing.

  • Have children sit down if possible.

  • If a gas leak or other incident that requires individuals be located further away from the child care occurs, have teachers move children to the pre-designated area or no less than one block from the child care. The pre-designated location is (where – at least one block away from child care).

  • Director will evaluate the situation with the help of responding agencies (fire, police, etc.) and determine if it is safe to enter the building. If not, determine if it is necessary to move to the alternate site location (follow Site Evacuation procedure in this plan), or to stay put until it is safe to re-enter the building.

  • Director/Designee will notify parents immediately if evacuation looks to be long term or if children are moved to alternate site location; parents will be notified (how – note on the door, note left in a designated spot, call to out-of-area contact, other).

  • Director/Designee will report incident to licensor at earliest convenience.

  • Director/Designee will complete a written incident report at the earliest opportunity; incident reports are stored (where).

  • All parents will be notified of incident.


Site Evacuation:

It is important to have at least 2 alternate locations for your site to evacuate to. In the event of a large scale disaster, one or both, of your alternate sites may not be available. When choosing alternate locations:


  • Make sure you talk to that site to ensure that you can use it during a disaster.

  • Make sure the alternate site will be able to handle the number of children/staff you will have.

  • Make sure the alternate site is accessible to you during the hours that your center is open.

  • If it is determined that staff and children will be moved to the alternate site location distant from the child care, assign children to a designated teacher.

  • Staff should bring the following items to the alternate sites:

      • disaster supplies which are stored (where)

      • class/staff attendance sheets and visitor sign-in sheets (where)

      • children’s emergency and medical information/supplies (where)

      • cell phone, if available.

  • Children will be taken to the alternate site location by: (describe how you will transport children to the alternate site – examples include walking, center vehicles, staff cars, nearby transportation resource).

  • Once at the alternate site location, take attendance again. Teachers must remain with their group of children until the children are picked up by parents or emergency contacts.

  • Director/Designee will continue to communicate with parents and coordinate pick-up of children.

  • Director/Designee will report incident to licensor at earliest convenience.
  • Director/Designee will complete a written incident report at the earliest opportunity; incident reports are stored (where).

Shelter-in-Place Procedure


Shelter-In-Place should be conducted when you are instructed to do so by emergency personnel or Emergency Alert System (EAS) broadcasts on your radio or television; or if you see a vapor cloud or smell an unusual odor outside.

  • Gather all children inside in a location that is easiest to seal off from the outside, such as a room or two with few exterior windows and doors. This location is (where).

  • Call 911 if you haven't already done so. Director or designee should turn on and listen to the radio. Listen for emergency information from your local fire or police department.

  • Director or facility maintenance person should turn off all fans, heating, cooling or ventilation systems and clothes dryers.

  • Close and lock windows and doors (Locked windows seal better) and close as many interior doors as possible.

  • Close off non-essential rooms such as storage areas, laundry room, etc.

  • Seal gaps around windows, doors, heating/air conditioning vents, bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans, stove, and dryer vents with pre-cut plastic sheeting, wax paper, or aluminum foil and duct tape.

  • Stay alert to loudspeaker announcements; emergency personnel from your local police or fire departments may give you specific instructions via loudspeaker or door-to-door.

  • If determined necessary, you can provide a minimal amount of breathing protection by covering mouths and noses with a damp cloth.
  • If you are told there is danger of explosion, close the window shades, blinds or curtains; to avoid injuries, keep children away from windows.


  • Director/Designee should stay in touch with responding agencies/emergency personnel.

  • Director/Designee and emergency personnel in charge will determine whether to stay sheltered in place or to evacuate.

  • Advise parents not to pick children up from the child care until the incident is over. The presence of parents searching for their children will only cause confusion and may lead to exposure to toxic chemicals. Once sheltered in place you will not want to open the door to let parents in and out.

  • Have emergency disaster supplies and emergency contact cards handy.

  • Once the incident is over; inform parents, take down plastic, turn ventilation system back on.

  • Director/Designee will report incident to licensor at earliest convenience.

  • Director/Designee will complete a written incident report at that earliest opportunity. Incident reports are stored (where).

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