- Child care is an integral and essential part of a community's economic viability and should be restored as soon as possible following an emergency event.
- Child care providers have their site-specific emergency and disaster plans as required by Child Care Licensing Requirements which outlines the mandates to practice drills, review and adjust as needed based on children, families, staff, and facility needs and to keep families informed of current and any revised procedures.
- Providers should have enough food, water and supplies to take care of children for up to three days without intervention in an extreme situation.
- This document is consistent with other local, state and federal disaster planning documents related to caring for the needs of young children.
- Families may need temporary assistance with respite care for their children while they work in the recovery phase following an emergency/disaster.
- Understanding the needs for emergency responders to have care for their own children in order to meet the needs of the community.
- The steps to be followed when responding to the needs of a community will vary depending on the particular emergency or disaster and the geographic area involved, extent of the damage and auxiliary services available.
OCC Emergency Preparedness Plan
The purpose of this document is to provide guidance and procedures for the Department of Human Services Child Care Services (CCS) to respond to a disaster that significantly affects a community's child care infrastructure. The plan outlines the roles and responsibilities of CCS and partner organizations in providing support to child care providers and families affected by a disaster.
- Support the safety and well-being of children in child care through continued licensing efforts.
- Ensure the continuation of Child Care Services division services. A Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) reviewed annually outlines the administrative plan if CCS staff or facilities are involved in an emergency/disaster in any part of the state.
- Provide technical assistance as requested by providers, licensing personnel and make recommendations for temporary or emergency child care.
- Continue child care subsidy payments to providers.
- Continue eligibility determinations and subsidy authorizations for parents and address any new needs for subsidy due to the impact of the emergency, such as a loss of employment.
- Disseminate information to providers and families regarding disaster assistance and response including recovery, reunification and rebuilding with the Oklahoma Emergency Operation Center and other agencies that offer support following an emergency.
Oklahoma Department of Human Services has in place a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) which incorporates Child Care Services. This plan designates responsibility for essential staffing needs relative to the agency's primary mission to improve the quality of life of vulnerable Oklahomans by increasing people's ability to lead safer, healthier, more independent and productive lives. The office of Emergency Management Services coordinates state wide responses and provides updates during and immediately following an event.
A) Continuity of Service
The priority is to protect the health and safety of children in care while minimizing the impact to providers and families. Any time a situation exists in the state where child care might be affected due to structural damage of a facility, loss of utilities or any other condition that would limit the ability to care for children in healthy, safe environments, licensing specialists across the state monitor the impact and report findings to CCS. Individual responses are made dependent on the situation.
B) Coordination with other State/Territory Agencies and Key Partners
Child Care Services and Department of Human Services staff collaborates with members of Children in Emergencies Committee. The committee meets quarterly and is convened by the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management. Representatives on the committee are from local, state, regional agencies. The Oklahoma State Department of Health Resource Guide for Access and Functional Needs of Children and Youth in Disaster Planning is used to monitor emergency response to meet the needs of vulnerable populations, such as children.
Licensing Requirements for Child Care Programs and Family Child Care Homes detail situations that emergency plans should include procedures for (A) serious injuries; (B) serious illnesses; (C) poison exposure; (D) outbreaks of communicable diseases, including pandemic influenza; (E) weather conditions, including tornados, floods, blizzards, and ice storms; (F) fires, including wildfires; (G) man-made disasters, including chemical and industrial accidents; (G) human threats, including individuals with threatening behaviors, bomb threats, and terrorist attacks; (I) lost or abducted children; (J) utility disruption; and (K) other natural or man-made disasters that could create structural damage to the facility or pose health hazards.
Specific details are found in Licensing Requirements. Emergency plans must be written and individualized to the program and hours of operation; reviewed annually with staff and families; and drills are conducted at various times throughout the hours of operation, so that each child and staff member, including volunteers, participates at least one time every three months.
Drills: fire drills are conducted at least monthly by evacuating and meeting at pre-determined locations; tornado drills are conducted at least monthly by sheltering in pre-determined on-site locations; lock down and relocation procedures reviews: at least once every 12 months; and the director updates, as necessary, and reviews emergency plans and procedures: at least once every 12 months; upon enrollment of children with disabilities or chronic medical conditions; after a drill when procedure issues are identified; and after an emergency.
- Procedures for addressing each child's needs, with additional considerations for: (A) 2-year-olds and younger; and (B) children with disabilities or chronic medical conditions.
- Each family, staff member, and volunteer is informed of procedures for every type of emergency response.
- Ways to account for the location of each staff and child during an emergency include
- Sheltering in place (an appropriate response at times when safety is sought within an occupied building, such as a tornado watch.);
- Lock down procedures (should be initiated when there is a credible threat to safety of children and staff. A response might include staying in classrooms, lock all outside and inside doors, and remain out of sight.);
- Evacuation procedures (to exit the building to a pre-determined location on the property such as a typical fire drill. Could also consist of leaving the area to travel to a predetermined location and includes a transportation plan. Reasons for this kind of evacuation could include a gas leak, weather-related disaster, or specific, serious damage to a facility).
- Informing families of the pre-determined transportation plan and evacuation location and alternate location;
- A method for reuniting parents or other approved adults with the children.
- Procedures for notifying emergency authorities and parents including a method and backup method. Texting may be the best form of communication in times of emergencies. Procedures should ensure all personnel including volunteers receive training and are familiar with emergency plans and procedures for different types of emergency responses. Training includes personnel roles and responsibilities in an emergency; location of posted emergency routes and alternate routes; location of first aid and emergency supply kits; and location and use of fire extinguishers.
- Accessible, operable phones must be available in emergency sites including off-site if an evacuation is conducted. There should also be a phone in each vehicle when children are transported.
- Posted emergency information must include program information and emergency numbers; first aid kit, emergency supply kit, and fire extinguisher locations; and evacuation routes.
- Emergency first aid and supply kits are required to have mandated supplies listed in Licensing Requirements; records of all children and personnel currently in attendance with up-to-date emergency contact information; and children and staff's prescribed medications.
- Emergency equipment should include smoke and carbon monoxide alarms that are operable and tested at least monthly; central detection and alarm system for smoke and carbon monoxide, inspected and tagged at least every 12 months by a state licensed authority; fire extinguishers and automatic sprinkler systems that are fully functional; and inspected and tagged at least every 12 months by a state licensed authority.
Child Care Licensing Specialists in the affected areas assess the needs of child care providers to continue child care that meets health and safety requirements. Programs that are closed due to structural or utility disruption are noted and families are provided alternate program referral information by Child Care Resource and Referral. Licensing staff will contact the CCS state office to report on the numbers of programs impacted, to what degree, and specific needs of the community are taken into consideration.
If there is a need for additional child care in disaster declared areas, Child Care Services staff will work with the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, Red Cross, FEMA, Oklahoma Child Care Resource and Referral, etc. to determine where care can be made available at other locations. Child Care Providers may be asked if they can care for additional children who have been impacted by the emergency.
Reunification of families with their children should be included in programs' emergency plans. Reunification is defined as 'the process of assisting displaced disaster survivors, including children, in voluntarily reestablishing contact with family and friends after a period of separation'. Swift and safe reunification should include procedures to identify and verify who has permission to assume responsibility for a child. Collaboration with Emergency Management, community officials, and other disaster relief organizations is part of a reunification plan.
Post-disaster supports may be available for families and providers. In each disaster response, CCS will assist emergency management and other responders with getting information disseminated related to child care and keeping children safe. Oklahoma has used resources available through county and state health and mental health departments to assist with physical and emotional health supports.
Child Care Licensing Specialists have access to materials and resources that can used to assist providers with emergency preparedness and response.
Oklahoma Child Care Services has a system in place to identify the needs of communities following a disaster or emergency and to ensure that the safety and needs of young children and their families are met. Collaborative meetings are held by phone or in person with national, state and local emergency management teams to include child care in the immediate and post-emergency restoration of services.
Multiple Oklahoma organizations and agencies related to children and emergencies meet regularly to discuss coordination of efforts. Additional assistance may be accessed at Disaster Distress Helpline.