Facility and Efficiency Improvements - Safety and Preparedness for a Healthy School Environment

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Why It's Important

  • At any time a school may experience an emergency that could pose a threat to the health and safety of students and staff.
  • Outdated, unknown or unneeded amounts of dangerous or inappropriate chemicals in laboratories, art rooms, maintenance areas or the nurse's office can also put students and staff at risk for serious health problems.
  • Schools need to be prepared to withstand natural disasters and acts of terrorism and to shelter community members during such emergencies when necessary. 

What You Can Do

  • Establish an incident command system to identify hazards.
  • Establish safety plans and be prepared to implement them in case of emergency.
  • Follow safe chemical management practices to minimize potential exposure and prepare for responses to spills or other hazards.
  • Train students, staff members and volunteers to respond to emergencies and conduct routine exercises and drills.
  • The Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Center from the Department of Education offers schools support for developing high-quality emergency operations plans and comprehensive planning efforts.

EPA and Federal Partners

  • EPA's Emergency Management programs help ensure that facilities and organizations take steps to prevent oil spills, chemical accidents and other emergencies; implement planning and preparedness requirements; and respond to environmental emergencies. The website describes EPA's programs, explains rules and regulations and links to numerous information sources.
  • EPA's Natural Disasters site offers detailed information and links for preparing for and recovery after hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters. Information for commercial facilities would apply to school buildings, too, such as safe debris removal.
  • Multihazard Emergency Planning for Schools is a comprehensive Federal Emergency Management Agency website that helps schools put plans in place to respond to many different types of emergencies. The website offers tools and sample documents to address issues such as hazards analysis, exercises and drills, prevention and preparedness, response and recovery, training and development of staff and much more.
  • EPA's Chemical Management Resource Guide for School Administrators helps schools and administrators reduce the use of dangerous chemicals and install safer chemical management practices and policies to protect against dangerous chemical exposures.
  • Safe Lab: School Chemistry Laboratory Safety Guide (PDF) (88pp, 1.2MB) by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health provides teachers, and ultimately their students, with information so that they can take the appropriate precautionary actions to prevent or minimize hazards, harmful exposures and injuries in the laboratory.
  • Water Emergency & Incident Information provides preparedness and response planning tools for private well owners, including schools that provide their own well water, and much more.

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National Organizations

Regional, State and Local Resources

  • A Beginner's Guide to Reviewing EHS Issues at Your School developed by the Burlington (Massachusetts) Board of Health identifies 25 important items that should be reviewed and considered when initiating an environmental, health and safety (EHS) assessment.
  • The Office of Safe Schools Exiton the Florida Department of Education website serves to promote and support safe learning environments by addressing issues of student safety and academic success on state, district and school levels. The website addresses safety issues such as bullying, cell phones, Internet safety, drugs and alcohol, and teen dating violence.

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