Schools & Parents

Emergencies are unpredictable.

"We usually have little warning that an event or series of events may cause a massive disruption in our lives and our communities. As one of the major areas in which people gather, schools are places where emergency preparedness is critically important to the well-being of students and employees and to the confidence that parents feel in entrusting their children to the care of educators in BC schools." 

In the event of an emergency, boards of education and educators – teachers, principals, and superintendents - must ensure that students are cared for until such time as they can be safely reunited with their parents.

Duty of Care: A well-established legal principle that educators are expected to use the same standard of care towards their students – both within the school and on school-sponsored field trips – as a prudent or careful parent would in the same circumstances.
Uzelac, J. and Krzus, S. Field Trips and the Duty of Care, TC Magazine, Fall 2007

School emergencies can be on a small scale, confined to one site, or on a larger scale, potentially impacting an entire school district or even many districts. A small, localized fire within a school, for example, will require a different response than a chemical leak from a train derailment, such as occurred at Lac Mégantic that affected a whole community. 

Being ready to address different scenarios, in collaboration with first responders and relevant community agencies, takes considerable preparation on the part of district staff. While district personnel are not necessarily trained as emergency services workers, they may be called upon to fulfill roles related to first aid, damage assessment, locating students and staff, and care and comfort for students over an extended period of time.

An all-hazards approach focuses on planning that involves a small number of responses that can be used in different types of emergencies. In your schools preparations, consider these five basic all-hazard approaches – drop/cover/hold on, evacuate, lockdown, lockout and shelter in place. 

PreparedBC has partnered with Dreamrider, a Vancouver based company, to offer the public education program "Masters of Disaster." This is a free classroom program designed to help young people learn about emergency preparedness. The program teaches youth in grades 4 to 8 about hazards in BC—like floods, wildfires, earthquakes and tsunamis—and shows them how to get prepared, both personally and at home.   They also offer the "Emergency Preparedness Squad" program for children in K-4. This digital, arts-based resource inspires students to become emergency preparedness superheroes and to make sure their families are ready when disaster strikes.

Check out the Master of Disaster and Emergency Preparedness Squad HERE.



The Ministry of Education in British Columbia endorses the following best practices.

  • Three earthquake drills 
  • Six fire drills (BC Fire Code Requirement)
  • Two lockdown drills (RCMP Recommendation)
  • Drills should include variations such as taking alternate routes in the event that a usual route cannot be used. Other variations could include situations where students are not in the classroom, i.e., during lunch or class changes.
  •  Finally, schools and districts are encouraged to involve parents, volunteers and first responders in these practices, especially if they are to involve student release and a review of the exercise.

Best Practice: Practice drills with local First Responders and include them in debriefing sessions.

Best Practice: Incorporate and integrate emergency drills into learning experiences in ways that increase student understanding and capacity across the curriculum.

      “Tell me and I forget, teach me, and I may remember,
involve me and I learn.”
~ Benjamin Franklin ~

Parents and Guardians

Parents are key partners in their children's learning and are often very involved in school activities.  Parents play an important part in the support of the school's emergency plan by:

  • participating in the development of the emergency management plan,
  • ensuring that they are aware of how such plans will unfold,
  • providing vital and up-to-date information regarding contact, medical and student release information,
  • participating in drills or exercises related to emergency preparedness, including student release drills, when invited to do so by the principal,
  • encouraging their children to take drills seriously, and 
  • helping to acquite and organize emergency supplies on an ongoing basis.

Best Practice: Conduct emergency drills to reflect realistic situations. For example, a fire drill may involve a situation where, rather than re-entering the school, the assumption would be that the school is uninhabitable and parents will need to pick up students, perhaps at an alternate location. The drill, which would be held at the end of the day, could then be extended to involve participation by parents so that the student release plan is practiced along with the evacuation.



Developing a School Emergency Management Plan (SEMP) (VIEW)

Source: BC Ministry of Education "Emergency Management Planning Guide for Schools, Distrcits and Authorities" 2015