Special Education Students and Emergency Plans

By Shamus P. O'Meara and M. Annie Mullin

School districts are always developing and refining emergency management plans for their general student population. However, very few plans include procedures for students with developmental disabilities. These students cannot always comfortably or safely use standard resources offered in emergency management plans, leaving them unprepared for a school crisis.

Improvement is needed to integrate students and employees with developmental disabilities into emergency management planning and readiness. Schools also need to increase their capacity to protect and respond to people with developmental disabilities in an emergency or crisis. A comprehensive planning process is needed to address the particular circumstances of those students.

Schools have been latecomers to the time-tested emergency management concepts articulated in the National Incident Management System (NIMS), including its four-phased interconnected approach to emergency planning: mitigation/prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery.

As schools implement this plan, awareness is growing that greater focus is needed to make sure that people with developmental disabilities are properly integrated within all four phases of school emergency management planning.

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