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May 2, 2023 in Down Syndrome

School Emergency Planning for Children with Disabilities

As much as education is a basic need, plans to remedy and help children with disabilities in case of emergencies are important. Young children with physical and mental challenges are the most vulnerable in case of emergencies.

They tend to have unique needs that require special inputs. And even though most schools have crisis plans that protect their students, they lack critical emergency plans to save children with disabilities. School institutions must put the individual needs and requirements of every student with a disability in their emergency programs.

If a school is to implement an emergency plan, it needs to take procedural actions to ensure the safety of students with special needs. Achieving this means that in the event of an emergency, there is effective planning and implementation of the preparedness, response and mitigation strategies.

Concerns to address during the formulation of a school emergency plan
Creating a fully admissible school emergency plan involves considering the unique needs of children with disabilities. Special needs consist of a broad spectrum that requires total inclusivity in the emergency plan, as the omission of some can prove to be catastrophic.

The three phases of developing a school emergency plan are:

  • Mitigation and prevention
  • Response
  • Recovery

Mitigation and prevention
A mitigation procedure is an action that a school takes to identify barriers and hindrances that special needs children may face during an emergency. Removing and correcting possible hazard environments creates an effective emergency planning platform.

Some of these mitigation steps include:

  • Identify the students that require additional help during an emergency
  • Create a list of all resources and needs regularly relied upon during an occurrence of an emergency
  • Decide and create ready evacuation routes for children who have limited mobility. Additionally, assess the selected pathways for potential hazards and provide remedies where needed.
  • Plan and purpose to conduct several emergency drills and train the children for quick responses.
  • Develop unique communication protocols to communicate to visual, speech impaired, and deaf children.
  • Learn about the various types of emergencies and how they may affect the school.
  • Assign able adults to help in conducting evacuation and care procedures to those children that need extra assistance in case of an emergency
  • Create an individualized care procedure with the child’s family that teaches them to learn the child’s responses when dealing with various emergencies.
  • Consult with a specialist to understand the appropriate actions to do in case of an emergency
  • Consider how various emergencies may affect children with disabilities.
  • Provide extra hardware that may be helpful during an emergency, i.e., wheelchairs, guide sticks, and special emergency kits.

The response phase is the immediate action taken after an occurrence of an emergency. Response actions enable the saving of life and protection of property. Response to children with disabilities may be challenging, as each child requires individual attention that may be unique and specialized. Reactions vary significantly on the severity and intensity of an emergency.
The response procedure follows the guidelines are directives poised by the mitigation phase. The mitigation and preventive step directly affect the response phase. For special needs children, carefully select the best responses so as not to worsen the already problem at hand.

Some response actions include:

  • Assess the emergency and evaluate the imminence of the emergency
  • Announce the emergency – the primary goal is to let all the challenged children know that there is an emergency at hand and the best way to exit
  • Call for help from the designated adults
  • Implement evacuation procedures and first aid services to those that need it
  • Take count while referring to the previous list
  • Administer individual help to any that cannot do it themselves.

The recovery phase assists children with disabilities in restoring their normal learning operations. It is a physical, mental, and emotional process. The recovery process is an ongoing activity that assures children with disabilities of a secure future. It is a critical phase and should always happen whenever an emergency occurs.

The recovery phase includes actions such as:

  • Restore all the necessities that the children with disabilities find comfort.
  • Include stress management techniques during teaching and other school activities
  • Perform frequent assessments on the needs and support the unique needs children require.
  • Ensure critical information is conveyed to the children with disabilities
  • Affirm to the students that they are in good care at all times.
  • Minimize disruption to the daily routine as children can be adversely affected by that

Final Thoughts
Emergency plans for children with disabilities are necessary measures schools should take in preparation for emergencies. These children require more attention and help; thus, a plan to save them serves the best of all intended purposes.

School emergency planning geared toward children with physical and mental disabilities always help to prevent fatalities and reduce damage. Most importantly, these measures protect special needs children and accelerate the resumption of normal operations that provide mental healing to most children.

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