Disaster Planning for School Districts: Three Ways to Prepare for the Unexpected

Dark and light blue image of a hurricane from space disaster planning for school districts

From hurricanes to tornados to wildfires and earthquakes, natural disasters can lead to a devastation that’s uncontrollable and unpredictable. On top of that, 94% of children in the U.S. live in communities that are at risk for natural disasters. With that said, disaster planning for schools districts is just as important as planning instruction. 

Disaster planning for school districts is vital to ensure families are fed, your data is secure, and everyone is in the loop. Ready to learn more? Here are three tips to help your district prepare for the unexpected and mitigate the impact of a natural disaster. 

Provide Students and Families Access Healthy Meals 

Part of your disaster planning should include how students will be fed. There are measures in place that offer flexibility when natural disasters strike. According to the Food Research & Action Center, school nutrition departments can provide meals through alternative nutrition programs. In addition, schools have more flexibility around requirements when a major disaster is declared.

“In the aftermath of a disaster, districts can provide critical nutrition support to students through the school, summer, and afterschool nutrition programs. When a major disaster declaration is issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has the authority to waive program requirements that limit access to meals in situations resulting from damage or disruptions due to natural or man-made disasters, or other exceptional emergency situations.

These include, but are not limited to, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and floods. School districts can work with their state child nutrition agency and USDA to apply for waivers from program requirements that would otherwise limit students’ access to meals.”  

The Food Research & Action Center

Hurricane Florence and Community Eligibility Provisions

Hurricane Florence was a storm for the history books. Stalling over the Wilmington, NC area for 36 hours, the storm dropped nearly two feet of rain. In the end, Brunkswick County Schools suffered Florence’s wrath.

According to spokesperson, Daniel Seamans, “Damage from Hurricane Florence cost the school system between $1.8 and $2 million.” The impact of the storm on Brunswick County “put the district in a position where it was possible to transition into the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under its National School Lunch Program to help feed students and families recovering from the devastation.” 

Make the Move to Cloud-Based Software Solutions Now 

School technology officials are increasingly recommending their districts move any sort of critical software and documents to the cloud. This is one of the best ways to protect your sensitive date from fire, flood, or any other natural disaster. Cloud hosting protects your data against physical and virtual cybersecurity threats.  On top of that, these solutions make it possible to quickly pivot and run your district operations from any location. Without a plan for this, you risk losing everything. 

Make a Clear Communication Plan 

Disaster planning for school districts should include a clear communication plan for emergencies. Technology is one of the greatest tools to establish or enhance student, staff, and parent communication at any moment. Districts can utilize systems they already have in place to send important information quickly. Most current systems include text message notifications, email newsletters, a school website and/or mobile app, social media, etc. 

Disaster Planning for School Districts Creates a Safety Net

Natural disasters are beyond our control and can strike at any time. That’s why it is crucial for districts to prioritize planning and preparing for these situations. Knowing how to respond to a natural disaster helps ensure your district’s safety and ability to recover. No matter what kind of plan that’s in place, these three tips will keep your entire district safe .

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