Responding to Emergencies

Emergency Drills

Learning Support

Emergency drills are a necessary safeguard in case some form of incident takes place that is outside the ability of the school staff to control such as earthquakes, hurricanes, or terrorists. Drills can be stressful for students, especially when they do not understand what they are for or how to react. So as educators it is essential that we practice emergency drills with the children so that in the case of an actual emergency they can remain calm and as safe as possible. As children practice, they are instilled with confidence and motor memory so that in the case of an actual emergency they can perform the necessary procedures. Drills should be held on a regular basis so students can become familiar with the different procedures for different incidents. The saying “practice makes perfect” applies here! As the paraeducator you are responsible for knowing how to get to all the exits and should know which one your class is assigned to. The instructions you give to your students, during the drills, should be clear and concise. The children should be aware that in an actual emergency everything may not go according to plan. As the paraeducator you need to plan with your students how to continue if an exit is blocked or some unforeseen hindrance occurs. Since some students may need extra help, a buddy system could be created. There will not be one to one support for each student so teaching the students who their buddy is can be important. Students can and should help you. Giving them a responsibility for helping their friends in an emergency will help them get through an anxious situation as well.


Autism Their response to the situation is often different than other children. They resist changes in routine or their environment and will become anxious in an emergency. Provide a sense of structure, routine, and normalcy by making the emergency procedure a familiar activity. Basically you need to practice with them more frequently than other students!
Deaf-blindness They suffer from hearing and vision loss which together limit their movement and the speed of their response in an emergency. They will require guidance from a person with sight. They can’t perform the emergency response procedures alone.
Developmental Delay They have either a physical, cognitive, communication, social, emotional, or adaptive (behavioral) delay in development. How you help them depends on the student’s particular developmental delay. Help minimize the disruption of their routine and help minimize the overstimulation of their senses caused by the emergency.
Emotional Disturbance May have a reduced ability to understand environmental events, situations, or procedures. The disabilities can range from mild to severe. They may be disobedient or resistant and/or panic. Help regulate the information the children receive and try not to cause a panic. Make the emergency response as normal a routine as possible.
Hearing Impairment This involves the complete or partial loss of hearing that adversely affects a child’s educational performance. They may not respond to auditory cues depending on the severity of the impairment. Help these children by providing written instructions; sign language, and other forms of specialized communication for direction in an emergency.
Mental Retardation This involves significant limitations in intellectual ability and adaptive behavior, but the severity of the disability can vary based on the individual. Help them understand what they need to do but as their aid you need to understand that they may not be able to understand what is happening and you need to help them through the process.
Multiple Disabilities This is when a student suffers from two or more impairments, the combination of which causes severe educational needs. How you help them depends on the combination of disabilities. Most students will need to have a person assigned to help one-to-one.
(see specified category)
Orthopedic Impairment A significant physical limitation that impairs the student’s motor activities, strength, vitality or their alertness to environmental stimuli. Students with an orthopedic challenge might require adaptive physical equipment such as canes, walkers, a wheelchair or some alternative form of device that helps them evacuate the building. Teaching Assistants and Teachers can make sure the student knows how to use the equipment.
Other health impairment A disease or disorder that negatively affects learning; examples include attention deficit/hyperactive disorders, cancer, sickle cell anemia and diabetes. Help students manage their medication or health practices in the case of an emergency.
Specific Learning Disability This is a disorder related to processing information that can lead to difficulties in reading, writing and computing. They may not need as much help in an emergency situation as compared to the learning environment.
Speech or Language This disorder is related to accurately producing or articulating the sounds of language to communicate. In an emergency help them by using sign language, hand signals, and other specialized communication to help them understand what to do in an emergency.
Traumatic Brain Injury An acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force, resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment or possibly a combination of both. The injury may affect cognition, behavior, social skills and speech loss. Help them understand the emergency situation and help them respond in the appropriate way. How you help them depends on their disabilities.
Visual Impairment A partial or complete loss of vision. Guidance from a sighted person is necessary in an emergency situation. Be proactive by teaching the student what to do in case an emergency happens.