Is Your Classroom Ready for a Natural Disaster?

Emergency supplies and a well-developed plan will benefit your class during an unforeseen event.

By Kelly Weymouth


According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), September is National Disaster Preparedness Month. This is perfectly timed with the start of the school year and provides a great opportunity to get your classroom stocked and prepared for the unlikely event of a natural disaster. According to FEMA, it is important to not only know what to do during and after an emergency, but to make a plan now, and also start assembling a disaster kit. While it is up to parents to ensure their children are safe and prepared at home, it is up to educators to assemble supplies and teach children how to respond in the event of an emergency at school. Youngsters generally spend anywhere from thirty to forty hours a week at school. Thus, as teachers and administrators, we must prepare for disaster scenarios.

Assemble a Basic Preparedness Kit

 FEMA suggests that each home and classroom assemble a basic kit with the following items:

  1. Water, one gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
  2. Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  3. Battery-powered radio (at least one or two per school site)
  4. Flashlight and extra batteries
  5. First Aid kit
  6. Whistle to signal for help
  7. Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  8. Dust mask or cotton t-shirt, to help filter the air
  9. Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  10. Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  11. Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)

If this list seems daunting, consider enlisting the help of classroom parents. Or, one of your first homework assignments could be to have students bring in a kid kit with bottled water, an extra change of clothing, some non-perishable snacks, and a picture of their family. The picture can bring comfort during an uncertain event. Most of us have these items assembled at home, but we spend nearly a quarter of our time each week at school.

Formulate a Plan at Home

After studying and preparing for natural disasters at school, students should then be encouraged to help prepare their families at home. As a homework assignment, have your pupils work with their families to make a disaster plan. As an extension, they can put their plan in writing. In the event of a disaster, they will have the plan written down at home. They can also bring in their written plans and share their families' ideas with the class. This type of collaboration will improve everyone's disaster preparedness.

Integrate Social Studies or Science into Your Preparation Education

Natural disasters look very different based on geographical regions. Consider using this month to create a mini-unit on natural disasters. Ask learners to research different types of natural disasters and how best to prepare and respond to each of them. This could be a great group activity where students make a brochure highlighting basic information about their type of disaster, what preparedness in that region should look like, and what a kit for that type of disaster should contain. Below are some other ideas for teaching about natural disasters and disaster preparedness.


“What do we do?”

Middle schoolers research various forms of natural disasters that occur in the United States and what someone should do to prepare for that disaster. There is also a technology integration component as they use the internet for research and create PowerPoint presentations to display their findings.

Non-fiction Natural Disasters

Here, younger children are exposed to various types of non-fiction by reading a book and various articles about natural disasters. Shared and guided readings are also components of this cross-curricular lesson.

English Learners and Natural Disasters

As we know, our English learners need realia, multimedia, and other visual information to solidify academic language. This will help English learners to relate different types of natural disasters to a simple graphic image of that disaster.