School Emergency Planning & Safety

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***For up-to-date Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response in Schools, please refer to the California Department of Education’s Coronavirus Response and School Reopening Guidance and the State of California’s Safe Schools For All Hub.

Disasters come in many forms from natural caused such as earthquakes, fires, floods, and severe storms to man-made caused such as active shooter events and chemical spills. Knowing how to react and respond in a time of crisis will help keep you and your students out of harm’s way. School emergency preparedness efforts and emergency plans help to keep students and staff safe.

At the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) our goal is to provide you with direct and easy access to emergency preparedness information and resources for schools throughout California and the nation. We hope you find the information provided below as a valuable tool in planning for, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from an emergency or disaster.

Explore this Section

Preparedness Ambassadors

California’s First Statewide 4th Grade Disaster Preparedness Program.

School Facilities Vulnerability Assessment

For School Staff Responsible for Safety Assessments.

Preparedness Programs and Resources for School Administrators

For Child Care, K-12, Higher Education

Each school day, our nation’s schools are entrusted to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for approximately 55 million elementary and secondary school students in public and nonpublic schools. Families and communities expect schools to keep our children and youths safe from threats and hazards. In collaboration with their local government and community partners, schools can take steps to plan for these potential emergencies through the creation of a school Emergency Operations Plan. Below are programs and resources that will assist school administrations to develop their emergency plans.

State of California Safe Schools For All Hub: The Safe Schools For All Hub consolidates key resources and information related to COVID-19 and schools. New resources will be added to the Hub on a routine basis.

ABC’s of Post-Earthquake Evacuation: (PDF) A checklist for School Administrators and Faculty on safely evacuating students and staff after an earthquake.

California Child Care Disaster Plan: Provides guidance for communication and coordination of key state agencies in the event of a disaster that affects the child care infrastructure. The California Child Care Disaster Plan, the Step-by-Step Guide, and the Emergency Plan Library can be downloaded and are available in English and Spanish.

California Department of Education’s School Disaster and Emergency Management page: This webpage contains guidance, grants, training, and resources for local educational agencies (LEAs) related to the management of natural disasters and emergency hazards.

***Coming Soon! Cal OES School Emergency ResponseUsing SEMS at Districts and Sites – These guidelines have been developed to help you develop an emergency plan that complies with the California Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS) and organize your emergency response procedures.

Crisis Response Box(PDF) This program is a joint effort of the California Attorney General’s Crime and Violence Prevention Center and the California Department of Education’s Safe Schools and Violence Prevention Office. This guide is designed to help every school assemble the tools and resources needed for a critical incident response at a school.

Emergency First Aid Guidelines for California Schools: (PDF) These guidelines developed by the CA Emergency Medical Services Authority provide recommended procedures for school staff in responding to medical emergencies when the school nurse is not available and until emergency medical services responders arrive on scene.

Listen, Protect, and Connect Psychological First Aid System: The Listen, Protect and Connect® psychological first aid system is designed for families, neighbors, co-workers and first responders. 

Disaster Planning Self-Assessment Guide for Child Care Centers: This guide by the California Care Licensing Division of the California Department of Social Services serves as a planning tool for Family Child Care Homes and Child Care Centers and provides basic disaster preparedness and emergency planning information that can be customized to fit the size and population of your facility.

The Great California Shakeout: When the ground starts to shake, what do you do? If it involves a doorway, a triangle, or running – these are not earthquake-safe actions. Register now at to learn more about Drop, Cover, and Hold On and practice updated earthquake safety actions. 

Guide and Checklist for Nonstructural Earthquake Hazards in California Schools: (PDF) The recommendations included in this document are intended to reduce seismic hazards associated with the nonstructural components of school buildings, including, but not limited to mechanical systems, ceiling systems, partitions, light fixtures, furnishings, and other building contents.

Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical  Assistance (TA) Center: The REMS TA Center supports schools, school districts, and institutions of higher education (IHEs), with their community partners, in the development of high-quality emergency operations plans (EOPs) and comprehensive emergency management planning efforts.

U.S. Department of Education Resources

FEMA P-1000, Safer, Stronger, Smarter: A Guide to Improving School Natural Hazard Safety: (PDF) This FEMA Guide provides up-to-date, authoritative information and guidance that schools can use to develop a comprehensive strategy for addressing natural hazards. It is intended to be used by administrators, facilities managers, emergency managers, emergency planning committees, and teachers and staff at K through 12 schools. It can also be valuable for state officials, district administrators, school boards, teacher union leaders, and others that play a role in providing safe and disaster-resistant schools for all. Parents, caregivers, and students can also use this Guide to learn about ways to advocate for safe schools in their communities.

FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) and Independent Study (IS) CoursesEMI offers school officials courses supporting the implementation of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) as well as general courses aimed at building school emergency management capacity.

Youth Preparedness Programs and Resources for the Classroom

Emergencies and natural disasters are scary concepts to children. But kids can find reassurance and empowerment when taught about these situations – what could happen, what they should do to prepare and what they should do during such an event. Below are programs designed for children in the classroom so they can take preparedness information, learn it and apply it to their life at home.

Cal OES Preparedness Ambassadors Program – A statewide fourth grade disaster preparedness curriculum created by Cal OES in partnership with the California Department of Education, CalRecycle, and the Sacramento County Office of Education. The Preparedness Ambassadors curriculum is designed to engage fourth grade students to develop and promote disaster preparedness guidelines for their homes, school, and local community. This program focuses on California’s most prevalent disasters to include wildfires, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, tornadoes, and power outages. This curriculum includes the Teacher Guide, Student Notebook, and Cal OES Family Readiness Guide, which provides important preparedness information for students and their families in developing an emergency plan.

Be Aware, Be Prepared This fourth grade unit of study was created by the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services in partnership with the San Diego County Office of Education. In this unit students build knowledge about the geological systems of the Earth, natural disasters, and disaster preparation through print and technology sources and collaborative research.  The unit directly reflects the overarching intent and goals of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts and the Next Generation Science Standards. The curriculum includes safety information that could be lifesaving to students and their families.

Get Ready 5th Grade Bay Area (GR5): This program was developed by Marin County and modified for implementation by counties in the San Francisco Bay Area. The GR5 was designed to foster family emergency preparedness through the efforts of children within a household. The curriculum is designed to engage 5th graders in a classroom setting with lessons covering a variety of emergency preparedness topics.

FireWorks Educational Program: FireWorks is an educational program about the science of wildland fire, designed for students in grades K-12. FireWorks provides students with interactive, hands-on materials to study wildland fire. It is highly interdisciplinary and students learn about properties of matter, chemical and physical processes, ecosystem fluctuations and cycles, habitat and survival, and human interactions with ecosystems. Students using FireWorks ask questions, gather information, analyze and interpret it, and communicate their discoveries. The FireWorks Educational Program is produced by the Fire Modeling Institute (FMI) of the US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire, Fuel, and Smoke Science Program (FFS).

FEMA Youth Programs

    • Youth Preparedness Programs:  Starting or getting involved with a youth preparedness program is a great way to enhance a community’s resilience and help develop future generations of prepared adults. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers numerous resources that can help such as Prepare with Pedro and the Ready 2 Help card game.
    • “Be a Hero!” Youth Emergency Preparedness Program: (PDF) This program is designed to provide students in grades 1-12 with the knowledge, awareness and life-saving skills needed to prepare for a variety of emergencies and disasters.
    • Student Tools for Emergency Planning (STEP) Program: This program is designed to teach students how to prepare for emergencies and disaster and to train them to become leaders in family preparedness.
    • Earthquake Publications for Teachers and Kids: FEMA earthquake publications are now available in a compilation. Educational resources (posters, teacher packages, a storybook for children, hands-on activities, and guidance) for teachers, students, and child care providers.

American Red Cross (ARC): is committed to helping youth and young adults become better prepared for a disaster or emergency. ARC’s Teaching Kids About Emergency Preparedness page covers several programs offered for students and youth to include programs below. All are available for free and are easy to download. For more information on these programs, email

    • The Pillowcase Project is a preparedness education program for children in grades 3 – 5, which teaches students about personal and family preparedness, local hazards, and basic coping skills. Generally given as a 60 minute presentation by Red Cross volunteers, the program leads students through a “learn, practice, share” framework to engage them in disaster preparedness. Students receive a sturdy pillowcase upon completion of the program in which they are encouraged to build their personal emergency supplies kit. Presentations are customized to focus on a hazard that is important and relevant to the local community.
    • Prepare with Pedro is a 30- to 45-minute preparedness education program for grades K-2 that teaches students how to BE PREPARED and TAKE ACTION for either home fires or a local hazard. Prepare with Pedro compliments The Pillowcase Project in scope and mission, by reading a story featuring a penguin named Pedro. Students learn a coping skill and receive a storybook to share what they have learned at home and its perfect for schools and after-school programs.

Don’t Mess with Mercury – A Mercury Spill Prevention Initiative for Schools: Mercury is the substance most frequently involved in school-related hazardous materials incidents. Elemental mercury spills are often caused by middle school students who are intrigued by the unique properties of the metal, play with it, share it with their friends, and contaminate their school, buses, and homes. Teachers can check out their award-winning resources from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to help middle school students learn about the dangers of elemental mercury and actions to take for a safer school environment.

Rocket Rules: “Building a mindset for safety!” The Rocket Rules program teaches emergency preparedness, safety awareness and social emotional skills to children PreK to 3rd grade. Their fun library of videos, books and activities will teach your children life-saving skills that will help them make smart, split-second decisions when it matters most!

Resources for Institutes of Higher Education (IHE)

The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, Emergency Preparedness

The California State University System Emergency Management Office

The University of California’s, Office of the President’s, Emergency Management Office

FEMA’s EMI Emergency Management Higher Education Program website promotes college-based emergency management education for future emergency managers and other interested personnel.

FEMA’s Guide to Building a Disaster Resistant UniversityBuilding a Disaster-Resistant University is both a how-to guide and a distillation of the experiences of six universities and colleges that have been working to become more disaster-resistant. This guide provides basic information designed for institutions just getting started, as well as concrete ideas, suggestions, and practical experiences for institutions that have already begun to take steps to becoming more disaster-resistant.

FDIC’s Preparing Your Institution for a Catastrophic Event: Preparing for a potential terrorism incident is the same as preparing for an earthquake, fire, flood and other major crisis or disasters. Hurricane Katrina Lessons Learned information from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is intended to provide school districts and site administrators with general guidelines regarding what measures can be taken to prepare for an emergency or disaster, including an incident related to terrorism.

U.S. Department of Education’s Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Institutions of Higher Education: (PDF) This guide was developed to give higher education institutions a useful resource in the field of emergency management.

School Safety

The vast majority of California’s students will complete their schooling without ever being touched by violence. Nevertheless, school attacks by students or intruders have shaken the image of our schools as being a reliably safe and secure environment. Below are resources to assist you with how to prepare for the unthinkable. Provides the academic community with a one-stop shop for school safety best practices and resources to create a safe and supportive learning environment where students can thrive and grow.

Cal OES Active Shooter Awareness Guidance: (PDF) Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims. Because active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, before law enforcement arrives on the scene, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.

Guide and Checklist for Emergency Preparedness & Classroom Security in California Public Schools & Community Colleges:  (PDF) Developed by the Department of General Services’ Division of the State Architect. This guide provides information on appropriate locking devices and barricades that can protect and secure a campus while simultaneously allowing for quick evacuation in the event of a fire or other hazards.

US Dept of Education: A Guide to School Vulnerability Assessments:  Vulnerability assessment is the ongoing process for identifying and prioritizing risks to the individual schools and school districts.

Practical Information on Crisis Planning: A Guide for Schools and Communities:  (PDF) A guide for schools and districts to prepare for a variety of crises. This guide emphasizes a valuable part of emergency management planning—ongoing vulnerability assessment—and is intended to assist schools with the implementation of an effective vulnerability assessment process.

Enhancing School Safety Using A Threat Assessment Model: An Operating Guide for Preventing Targeted School Violence:  (PDF) This operational guide was developed to provide fundamental direction on how to prevent incidents of targeted school violence when a student specifically selects a school or a member of the school community for harm.

Department of Homeland Security, Building and Infrastructure Publications (BIPS) 07, Primer to Design Safe School Projects in Case of Terrorist Attacks and School Shootings:  (PDF) This manual provides the design community and school administrators with the basic principles and techniques to design a school that is safe from potential physical attacks and, at the same time, offers an aesthetically pleasing design that is functional and meets the needs of the students, staff, administration, and general public.

2010 Report on Campus Attacks- “Targeted Violence Affecting Institutes of Higher Education” – (PDF) To better understand the breadth of issues with which an institute of higher education (IHE) may be confronted as part of a threat assessment, the Secret Service, Department of Education, and the FBI sought to identify and review literature that specifically examined the full-range of incidents of targeted violence affecting IHEs.

A Comparison of Averted and Completed School Attacks – (PDF) The Police Foundation has completed a comprehensive analysis of information collected from the Averted School Violence database as well as interviews with law enforcement and stakeholders. In this report, 51 completed and 51 averted incidents of school violence were analyzed to help further our understanding of averted and completed school attacks. The report also seeks to provide important lessons about how school violence can be prevented.

Danielle Chapman Huizar

Danielle Chapman Huizar

Emergency Services Coordinator

Office: (916) 845-8153

Nick Murray

Nick Murray

Senior Emergency Services Coordinator

Office: (916) 845-8753