Skip Navigation

School Safety Topics

Emergency Preparedness

The isolated, yet tragic and violent events that have taken place in schools and communities across the nation validate the need for State and local agencies, school systems, schools and communities to have well-written and well-rehearsed plans that address a variety of emergencies, crisis situations and traumatic events. These plans cannot be placed on shelves waiting to be dusted off when a situation arises, but must be continuously reviewed, updated and exercised.

Understanding the Issue

Schools are an integral part of the communities they serve and, therefore, are not isolated from the issues that affect their communities and our nation. Federal law requires that all local school systems receiving federal funding under Title IV, Part A, Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities provide an assurance that they have a crisis management plan in place to respond to crisis and emergency situations on school grounds. In addition, the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) requires local school systems to have an emergency response plan for all schools and central office buildings.

  • What should parents know and do?
    If you are a parent, confirm that your school has an emergency response plan, and make sure your family is familiar with important elements of the plan:
    • Ask how they will communicate with families during a crisis.
    • Ask if they store adequate food, water and other basic supplies.
    • Find out if they are prepared to "shelter-in-place" if need be, and where they plan to go if they must get away. Visit Ready Kids for more information
  • What are the types of emergencies for which our schools should be planning?
    Effective Emergency Preparedness in schools requires an all-hazards approach to prefer for any type of situation. These fall into four categories:

    Natural Hazards
    • Severe wind
    • Hurricanes
    • Floods
    • Wildfires
    • Extreme temperatures
    • Landslides or mudslides
    • Tsunamis
    • Volcanic eruptions
    • Winter precipitation
    Technological Hazards
    • Explosions or accidental release of toxins from industrial plants
    • Accidental release of hazardous materials from within the school, such as gas leaks or laboratory spills
    • Hazardous materials releases from major highways or railroads
    • Radiological releases from nuclear power stations
    • Dam failure
    • Power failure
    • Water failure
    Biological Hazards
    • Infectious diseases (pandemic influenza, tuberculosis, Staphylococcus aureus, meningitis, etc.)
    • Contaminated food outbreaks: (Salmonella,botulism, E. coli, etc.)
    • Toxic materials present in school laboratories
    Adversarial, Incidental, & Human-caused Threats
    • Fire
    • Active shooters
    • Criminal threats or actions
    • Gang violence
    • Bomb threats
    • Domestic violence and abuse
    • Cyber attacks
    • Dangerous animals
    • Suicide
    • Kidnapping, missing student
    • Bus accident
    • Riot/Student demonstration
  • How much should children be involved in emergency preparedness?
    It depends on the age of the child, but the short answer is as much as possible. Emergencies and disasters can happen at any time and often without any warning. Considering that children comprise approximately 25 percent of our population, disaster planning, response, and recovery efforts must take into account the unique needs that children have. Additionally, children bring many unique strengths to emergency preparedness:
    • Children are positive influencers. Educators and social researchers agree that children can effectively bring the message of preparedness home to their families.
    • Children can become leaders. By participating in youth preparedness programs, children are empowered to become leaders at home and in their schools and communities.
    • Children who are prepared are more confident during emergencies and disasters. Social science research and anecdotal evidence support the idea that children who have learned about emergency preparedness experience less anxiety during an actual emergency or disaster.
    • Ready more at