Why Prepare

Why Prepare?

K-12 schools serve around 52.6 million students and staff members each day. They have a legal and social responsibility to protect both students and staff members.

Schools’ core role is to educate students. However, they also meet the needs of students and families by providing meals, childcare, and physical and mental health services.


Schools have a responsibility to protect students and staff members.

School staff members are in loco parentis, meaning they have a responsibility to keep students safe. Staff members act on behalf of parents and legal guardians when children are at school. This includes not only while students are in class, but also while traveling to and from school on a school bus, and during school events or field trips.

When schools plan for emergencies, they can decrease the impact a short- or long-duration emergency will have on operations. This can help schools remain open, or allow them to reopen more quickly, which can help them continue to provide important services to students and families.

Communication is key during an emergency. Having a communication plan in place can help schools more efficiently and quickly communicate to emergency personnel, media, staff members, students, and families during and after an emergency. This communication can help ensure that adequate, targeted support is provided by emergency personnel. It can also help reassure family members and prevent a surge of calls and visitors to the school during and after an emergency. During longer emergencies, such as pandemics or a severe flu season, communication is critical so staff members, students, and families know how the school is protecting students and what actions they need to take.

CDC’s Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) manual provides helpful guidance for public health response officials and communicators.

Planning and preparing can prevent injury, illness, and death. This is because planning helps ensure that staff members are equipped to act quickly during an emergency to evacuate, shelter in place, or take other important actions to keep themselves and students safe.

Schools and Emergencies

Emergencies are unexpected events that can happen anytime and anywhere. They can occur at the local, state, regional, national, or international level.

Emergencies can occur as a single event or a cluster of events. Sometimes, emergencies last for a few minutes or hours, such as during a tornado or civil disturbance.

Emergencies can also last a few days or weeks, such as when a chemical release occurs or during a hurricane and the flooding aftermath. There are also times when an emergency can last months or years, such as during a pandemic.

Learn more about Specific Types of Emergencies.

Emergency responds

Schools should work with local and state health departments and emergency management agencies to conduct a threat assessment. This can help determine which types of emergencies require a full-scale exercise.