Introduction Natural and manmade disasters have been increasingly thrust into society's daily consciousness. With approximately one fifth of the United States population in a school setting on any given weekday, it is imperative that schools are prepared for these catastrophic events. Previous research has shown that 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 of disaster preparedness plans in their children's schools and investigate factors associated with differing levels of knowledge.
Methods A previously validated survey capturing knowledge of school disaster preparedness plans, parent monitoring behaviors, and demographics was given to parents of school-aged children who presented to an urban, tertiary care children's hospital emergency department.
Results 163 parents were enrolled. Ninety-one percent of children attended public school, and 62% were in elementary school. Fifty-five percent of parents reported that their children's school was not located at or near a potential disaster site; 37% did not know of the existence of a disaster plan at their child's school. Of the 59% of parents who reported that their child's school had a disaster plan, the majority of them did not know details of the plan, such as the existence of a crisis team (69%) or a post-disaster recovery plan (67%). Seventy-nine percent did not know where their child would be taken if the school needed to be evacuated. Whether or not parents knew if the school had a disaster plan was not significantly affected by their perception of the schools' susceptibility to disaster (p = .541) or the fact that they had a plan in place at home (p = .093). Parents with lower educational levels were shown to have less knowledge of the disaster preparedness plans at their children's school but reported that they prefer face-to-face meetings with school officials to receive disaster preparedness information. Parental monitoring techniques were not associated with levels of knowledge of school disaster plans.
Conclusions Parents remain generally unaware of school disaster plans. Knowledge of plans and potential actions, along with perceptions of risk, differ among various socioeconomic, educational, and marital status groups. These factors need to be addressed to optimize interventions in this area.
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