School Emergency Planning & Safety

Planning & Preparedness
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​Disasters come in many forms, can occur anywhere at any time and run the gambit from natural causes such as earthquakes, fires, floods, and severe storms to man-made causes such as an active shooter and chemical spills. Knowing how to react and respond in a time of crisis can go a long way to keeping you and your students out of harm’s way. Whether in day care, K-12 or a college/university, school emergency preparedness efforts and emergency plans help to keep students and staff safe.

At the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) our goal is to provide you with direct and easy access to pertinent emergency preparedness information and resources as they relate to schools throughout California and the nation. We hope you find the information provided below as a valuable tool in planning for, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from an emergency or disaster.

For more information contact:

Lynne Olson
(916) 845-8762


This page is broken down by the following topics for quick access to information.

  • Preparedness Programs and Resources for School Administrators
  • Preparedness Programs and Resources for the Classroom (Youth Preparedness)
  • School Safety
  • Additional Resources

​Preparedness Programs and Resources for School Administrators (Child Care, K-12, Higher Education)

Each school day, our nation’s schools are entrusted to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for approximately 55 million elementary and secondary school students in public and nonpublic schools. Families and communities expect schools to keep our children and youths safe from threats and hazards. In collaboration with their local government and community partners, schools can take steps to plan for these potential emergencies through the creation of a school Emergency Operations Plan. Below are programs and resources that will assist school administrations to develop their emergency plans.

NEW!  California Child Care Disaster Plan: Developed by the University of California, San Francisco's CA Childcare Health Program (CCHP) and funded by the California Department of Education, this plan was developed with input from stakeholders representing more than 22 state, local, and national agencies. The California Child Care Disaster Plan is an Annex to the State of California Emergency Plan. It provides guidance for communication and coordination of key state agencies in the event of a disaster that affects the child care infrastructure. The California Child Care Disaster Plan, the Step-by-Step Guide, and the Emergency Plan Library can be downloaded and are available in English and Spanish.

Cal OES School Emergency Response: Using SEMS at Districts and Sites - These guidelines have been developed to help you develop an emergency plan that complies with the California Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) and organize your emergency response procedures.

Crisis Response Box Program: This program is a joint effort of the California Attorney General’s Crime and Violence Prevention Center and the California Department of Education’s Safe Schools and Violence Prevention Office. This guide is designed to help every school assemble the tools and resources needed for a critical incident response at a school. 

Disaster Planning Self-Assessment Guide for Child Care Centers: This guide by the California Care Licensing Division of the California Department of Social Services serves as a planning tool for Family Child Care Homes and Child Care Centers and provides basic disaster preparedness and emergency planning information that can be customized to fit the size and population of your facility.

California Childcare Health Program: This website will introduce you to projects and services designed to support healthy and safe practices in a child care settings. The Emergency Preparedness Guide and the accompanying Instructors Guide were developed by the University of California, San Francisco School of Nursing, and provides information on emergency preparedness resources to assist and support early care and education programs. 

FEMA Sample Childcare Emergency Action Plan: This FEMA document provides a sample child care emergency action plan. This plan is for training purposes only and will need to be tailored to the specific hazards and needs of your site and community. 

Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical  Assistance (TA) Center:  The REMS TA Center supports schools, school districts, and institutions of higher education (IHEs), with their community partners, in the development of high-quality emergency operations plans (EOPs) and comprehensive emergency management planning efforts. Established in October 2004 and administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office of Safe and Healthy Students (OSHS), the REMS TA Center provides a hub of information, resources, training, and services in the field of school and higher education emergency operations planning.

U.S. Department of Education Action Guide for Emergency Management at Institutions of Higher Education: This guide was developed to give higher education institutions a useful resource in the field of emergency management. 

FEMA’s Guide to Building a Disaster Resistant University: Building a Disaster-Resistant University is both a how-to guide and a distillation of the experiences of six universities and colleges that have been working to become more disaster-resistant. This guide provides basic information designed for institutions just getting started, as well as concrete ideas, suggestions, and practical experiences for institutions that have already begun to take steps to becoming more disaster-resistant. 

FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) and Independent Study (IS) Courses: EMI offers school officials courses supporting the implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) as well as general courses aimed at building school emergency management capacity.  The EMI School Program website details required courses for individuals or organizations to be considered NIMS compliant as well as additional recommended courses for independent study and a 4-day, no cost, course for school district teams on the EMI campus in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  Additionally the EMI Emergency Management Higher Education Program website promotes college-based emergency management education for future emergency managers and other interested personnel.

Preparing Your Institution for a Catastrophic Event:  Preparing for a potential terrorism incident is the same as preparing for an earthquake, fire, flood and other major crisis or disasters. Hurricane Katrina Lessons Learned information from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is intended to provide school districts and site administrators with general guidelines regarding what measures can be taken to prepare for an emergency or disaster, including an incident related to terrorism.

NEW!  The California Community College Chancellor's Office:  The Chancellor’s Office is dedicated in keeping districts, campuses, staff and students safe. The Chancellor’s Office, in consultation with the Office of Emergency Services, developed emergency preparedness standards and guidelines to assist districts and campuses in the event of a natural disaster, hazardous conditions, or terrorist activity. This page has links and resources that should assist districts in locating information for preparing an emergency preparedness plan.

​Preparedness Programs and Resources for the Classroom (Youth Preparedness)

Emergencies and natural disasters are scary concepts to children. But kids can find reassurance and empowerment when taught about these situations – what could happen, what they should do to prepare and what they should do during such an event. Below are programs designed for children in the classroom so they can take preparedness information, learn it and apply it to their life at home. 

Be Aware, Be Prepared This fourth grade unit of study was created by the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services in partnership with the San Diego County Office of Education. In this unit students build knowledge about the geological systems of the Earth, natural disasters, and disaster preparation through print and technology sources and collaborative research.  The unit directly reflects the overarching intent and goals of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts and the Next Generation Science Standards. The curriculum includes safety information that could be lifesaving to students and their families.

Get Ready 5th Grade Bay Area (GR5): This program was developed by Marin County and modified for implementation by counties in the San Francisco Bay Area. The GR5 was designed to foster family emergency preparedness through the efforts of children within a household. The curriculum is designed to engage 5th graders in a classroom setting with lessons covering a variety of emergency preparedness topics. 

FEMA’s “Be a Hero!” Youth Emergency Preparedness Program: This program is designed to provide students in grades 1-12 with the knowledge, awareness and life-saving skills needed to prepare for a variety of emergencies and disasters. 

FEMA’s Student Tools for Emergency Planning (STEP) Program: This program is designed to teach students how to prepare for emergencies and disaster and to train them to become leaders in family preparedness. 

FEMA's Earthquake Publications for Teachers and Kids: FEMA earthquake publications are now available in a compilation. Educational resources (posters, teacher packages, a storybook for children, hands-on activities, and guidance) for teachers, students, and child care providers. 

American Red Cross: The American Red Cross is committed to helping youth and young adults become better prepared for a disaster or emergency. The Masters of Disaster Program centers on a series of ready-to-go lesson plans that help both organizations and parents educate children about important disaster safety and preparedness information. The Masters of Disaster curriculum materials meet national educational standards and are specifically tailored for lower elementary (K–2), upper elementary (3–5) and middle school (6–8) classes. The Pillowcase Project is a preparedness education program for children in grades 3 – 5, which teaches students about personal and family preparedness, local hazards, and basic coping skills. Generally given as a 60 minute presentation by Red Cross volunteers, the program leads students through a “learn, practice, share” framework to engage them in disaster preparedness. Students receive a sturdy pillowcase upon completion of the program in which they are encouraged to build their personal emergency supplies kit. Presentations are customized to focus on a hazard that is important and relevant to the local community.

​School Safety:

The vast majority of California’s students will complete their schooling without ever being touched by violence. Nevertheless, school attacks by students or intruders have shaken the image of our schools as being a reliably safe and secure environment. Below are resources to assist you with how to prepare for the unthinkable.

Cal OES Active Shooter Awareness Guidance: Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims. Because active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, before law enforcement arrives on the scene, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.

Cal OES Active Shooter Awareness Presentation: Cal OES has developed a presentation to help prepare school administrators for a School Active Shooter Incident. The presentation can be tailored to suit your school's needs. For more information, contact Assistant Chief BJ Jones at or call the Cal OES Law Enforcement Branch at 916-845-8700.

2010 Report on Campus Attacks- "Targeted Violence Affecting Institutes of Higher Education" - To better understand the breadth of issues with which an institute of higher education (IHE) may be confronted as part of a threat assessment, the Secret Service, Department of Education, and the FBI sought to identify and review literature that specifically examined the full-range of incidents of targeted violence affecting IHEs.

NEW!  Department of Homeland Security, Building and Infrastructure Publications (BIPS) 07, Primer to Design Safe School Projects in Case of Terrorist Attacks and School Shootings: This manual provides the design community and school administrators with the basic principles and techniques to design a school that is safe from potential physical attacks and, at the same time, offers an aesthetically pleasing design that is functional and meets the needs of the students, staff, administration, and general public. This second edition of FEMA 428 focuses on the threats posed by physical attacks on a school by terrorists or targeted shootings. The manual is intended for use by schools who feel they are at risk to attack and is designed to meet the needs of all schools, including those with serious security concerns.



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