In the past few years, there have been high-profile and deadly school shootings that often cause Americans to question laws surrounding emergency evacuations in schools. While there is usually a discussion on school safety immediately surrounding a tragic shooting, there never seems to be much preventative action taken at the state level. A recent report released by Save the Children, a non-governmental disaster relief organization, found that Michigan is one of four states that fails to meet all the evacuation and relocation criteria set by the National Commission on Children and Disasters. Michigan can’t wait for a disaster to strike to formulate plans to keep students, teachers and staff safe. Multifaceted school evacuation plans, which include plans for evacuation/relocation, family-child reunification, children with special needs and multiple-disaster scenarios, must become a statewide policy, and legislators need to ensure lower-income schools can implement these safety measures.

Though Michigan doesn’t meet the standards created by the National Commission on Children and Disasters, the state does require schools to practice six fire drills, two tornado drills, and two other safety drills — one of which must be a lockdown drill. Some school districts have gone even further, creating their own emergency evacuation plans. The lack of the policy’s uniformity across Michigan’s school districts, however, is cause for concern. By leaving these plans up to the discretion of local districts, affluent communities have access to better precautionary plans. Schools that don’t have the resources to fully consider and implement plans are putting students at greater risk than their peers in wealthier districts. Legislators must take into consideration economic solutions for districts who are unable to afford proper emergency evacuations plans.

In the meantime, school districts should look for gaps in their current emergency hazard plans that are easy and affordable to remedy. Having one entry point into the building and putting locks on the inside of classrooms are simple solutions educators could implement immediately. Parents must understand and explain to their children their school’s emergency hazard plan to help create a more prepared environment if disaster does occur.

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