“Shelter in Place” is a concept we hear about a lot today, whether it’s connected to a weather related emergency event, hazardous material, threat of attack or sudden violent event. For those of us who work with children and teens, within classrooms, agencies, parks or other settings where we find ourselves overseeing groups of young people, knowing when we need to consider sheltering in place becomes very important.
If we’re honest, these are things that we’d rather not think about. For certain, there’s no shortage of important things that we need to constantly pay attention to on a day-to-day basis when it comes to safeguarding children within our care. Stopping to be aware of yet one other thing, and a big “maybe” and unlikely thing as an emergency that might require us to shelter in place, that we just dismiss it entirely. But we shouldn’t. Classroom teachers in most public schools receive training and run practice “codes” on what they should do to take immediate action to protect their students as much as possible. But other youth-serving programs generally do little or nothing in this area. However, you really should have a site-specific overall emergency plan, including an evacuation plan at your regular workday location where children and teens gather for programs, etc. Many insurance companies also require it especially in places where weather emergencies are more apt to happen. And when you bring a youth-serving program to an offsite location, especially if you do so on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to inquire what the host facility has in place too in case of an emergency.
The good news is that there is a lot of good information out there on the do’s and don’t’s of sheltering in place. Of course my hope and prayer is that you, or I, will never need it. But with so many young and precious lives placed within our care every day, tucking these resources into our proverbial toolbox is always a good thing. Please take a few minutes to consider some of the following situations in which sheltering in place may be required, or taking emergency action, and what resources might prove helpful for you to be aware of should the need ever arise.
Violent or potentially violent intrusion into the space where you work with children.
Responding to angry visitors who have an issue with you or other staff members.
Danger of Environmental Hazards in the proximity of where you work with youth.
Sudden weather related need to shelter in place or get to a nearby safer location.