FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, recently released Safer, Stronger, Smarter: A Guide to Improving School Natural Hazard Safety, in order to help schools be better prepared and better able to respond, recover, and mitigate future natural hazards.
The Guide gives practical advice and recommendations regarding emergency operation plans (what to do before, during and after an event) as well as physical protection (what can be done to the structure and facility to improve safety). It also includes information on how to determine whether buildings or facilities in your district are at risk for a the particular hazard. Oregon schools, for instance, may be particularly susceptible to floods, wildfires, tsunamis, and earthquakes, depending on the area. For each hazard, the Guide includes step-by-step information for planning a response and recovery.
The Guide also highlights ways to avoid damage to buildings and minimize danger to students by making buildings safer before a natural hazard event occurs. Districts with older buildings and districts considering improvements or new buildings should carefully review the “Making Buildings Safer,” sections. This Guide is particularly useful because draws on many different life experiences, including those of emergency experts, design professionals, school administrators, and parents. The information may be useful to develop or improve emergency response plans and to prepare buildings and facilities for natural disaster events. We recommend distributing the Guide to administrators, safety officers or committees, and maintenance staff. Emergency response information should also be conveyed to anyone who may be responsible for students in case of a natural disaster.