Introduction In these times of heightened awareness regarding disaster threats, terrorist activities and medical emergencies, it is imperative that schools are prepared for these catastrophic events. Research has shown schools are ill-prepared to manage many of these situations and parents are unaware of the disaster plans at their children's schools. This study was performed to ascertain parents' current knowledge and recommendations for school preparedness for these events.
Methods Investigator-administered surveys were given to parents of school-aged children who presented to the pediatric ED. Home-schooled were excluded. The novel, validated (qualitative assessment, test-retest) survey addressed parents' knowledge of areas of preparation, incident response, and recovery. Frequencies and relative frequencies are reported.
Results 177 parents were surveyed, 93% public school, 61% elementary school. 46% of parents reported that their children's school was not located at or near a potential disaster site. 80% reported that the school had full-time medical personnel and > 90% of schools asked for emergency contact and medical history. 60% knew of the existence of a disaster plan at the school, 55% had a plan with their children of what they would do at home in the event of a disaster, and 82% of these parents knew definitively whether the school had a disaster plan or not; 62% of those with no plan at home knew of a school plan (p = .0011). 64% said that schools had injury prevention courses (fire and water-safety, etc) in the curriculum; only 19% reported offerings of emergency courses (first aid, CPR, etc). 81% did not know where their child would be in the event of an evacuation and 41% did not know if emergency equipment (O2, bandages, medications, etc) was available at the school. Greater than 80% of parents knew of the school staff, administrators, and nurse being part of a “crisis team,” but < 40% of them knew of any participation of outside community resources. 21% were aware of post-disaster recovery plans for their child's school. Parents stated there should be more community and parental involvement with disaster planning at schools.
Conclusions Even in the atmosphere of heightened disaster awareness and terror alerts, significant gaps exist in parental knowledge regarding their school's readiness for disaster and the details of the specific disaster plan. Gaps in many crucial areas were identified including presence of emergency equipment, evacuation and reunification plans, and how the school planned on returning to its normal routine after the event. Improving parental awareness of the details of their school's disaster plan is necessary for adequate readiness for this very real threat.
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