Wildfires can not only force residents to evacuate their homes, but also depending upon the time of day that they occur, force students to be evacuated from schools. This is something parents and caregivers can prepare for, as they help children get ready to go back to school, during September, National Preparedness Month.
Wildfires can displace many children attending school at once, which shows the necessity of creating a plan. For example during Northern California’s Camp Fire, 3,300 students were evacuated from 11 schools in school buses and faculty cars. In one instance students were sent home and the administration was concerned that the homes they were sent to may not have been safe.
In response to their own recent wildfire evacuation of schools, San Diego County, a wildfire prone community has recently adopted a plan that recognizes this risk and has outlined a way to make sure children are safer during a wildfire event when they are at school and need to be evacuated. The county wide school evacuation plan was developed by the San Diego County office of Emergency Service (OES) based upon the county wide Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) in collaboration with the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE), The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, CAL Fire, California State Parks, and others.
According to an article about the plan, There are some questions parents can ask school officials before an emergency occurs, that would make it easier for everyone if an evacuation order is given;
- How will transportation be secured if my children need to leave?
- What is the designated relocation site?
- What happens/how will I be notified if students have to be taken to an alternative site?
- How will I be contacted and how can I contact school officials during an emergency?
- Have the school and school grounds been maintained looking at the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) so that if students are unable to leave it will be safer?
As you fill their backpacks with school supplies this year, you can also help prepare children to be safer in the event that a wildfire occurs when they are away from you at school. Learn more about how you and your family can be prepared for wildfire at NFPA’s Firewise USA site.
Photo: shared by Jason King