As families prepare for the new academic year, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and local emergency management agencies are encouraging parents to include emergency preparedness in their back-to-school plans.

“Emergencies can occur any time of the day or night, including when children are in school,” said Acting IEMA Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau in a Wednesday news release. “The start of a new school year is the perfect time to make sure you know your school’s plans for keeping students safe during an emergency and then talking to your child about those plans.”

Some tips for parents to consider:

- Learning where children will be taken in the event of an evacuation during school hours.

- Ensuring parents’ current emergency contact information is on file at their children’s school.

- Pre-authorizing a friend or relative to pick up children in an emergency and ensuring the school knows who that designated person is.

- Teaching children with cell phones about ‘Text First, Talk Later.’ Short, simple text messages, such as “R U OK?” and “I’m OK,” are more likely to get through than a phone call if phone service is unavailable immediately following an emergency. 

State law requires schools to hold a minimum of three evacuations drills while students are present to better prepare students and personnel for emergencies.  Specifically, within the first 90-days of the school year, schools must conduct at least one law enforcement evacuation drill. These drills must be conducted according to the school’s emergency and crisis response plans, protocols, and procedures.

Students headed off to college also need to be prepared for emergencies, stated the release. While doing back to school shopping, parents and students should consider picking up the essential items for an emergency preparedness kit.  Every home, dorm and apartment should have the supplies needed to endure a storm, power outage or disaster. 

Many college campuses also offer email and text messages to alert students of potential dangers, such as severe weather and other threats. Encourage college students to sign-up for such alerts. Some colleges also provide alert messages for parents so they also are aware of potential dangers on campus. In addition, ensure students knows the emergency plans for their dorm or apartment building.

In addition, a great resource for both parent and college students is the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s weather application.  This free application provides fast and reliable alerts from the National Weather Service (NWS), and can be tailored to offer alerts for up to five different locations.  

Additional emergency preparedness information is available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.