Emergency preparedness monthly focus: back-to-school safety tips

School is back in session! It's an exciting time of year, which also serves as the perfect time to evaluate your family's safety plans.

Below are seven tips to review and practice with your child or children to ensure a safe return to the classroom and safe year ahead:

1. Create and/or review your family emergency plan

Every household needs an emergency plan. These plans include important information to help guide you through an emergency and only takes 20 minutes to develop. 

Household emergency plans include contact information – including for family members, schools or childcare, emergency contacts, insurance and emergency services – and instructions for what to do in an emergency with special notes regarding children, special health needs and pets.

Families aren’t always together when an emergency happens; discuss what you would do in different situations.

Use this guide to create your household emergency plan online

Take the Government of Alberta's free interactive Personal Preparedness Course

2. Top up your emergency kit supplies

Involve your children in preparing or updating your family's emergency kit. Emergency kits are important because, in the event of a major emergency or disaster, normal emergency services are often interrupted. You may need to rely on your own personal emergency preparedness to get you through at least the first 72 hours.

View Public Safety Canada's list of items you should pack in your emergency kit.

3. Be aware of school emergency procedures

Each school has different emergency procedures that are followed in the event of an emergency in or around the school. Make sure you and your child review and understand the procedures at their school. Also, be sure to check that your child's school has up-to-date emergency contact information, including your work, mobile and/or home telephone numbers as well as contact information for alternate emergency contacts.

View a list of area schools; reach out to your child's school for details of their specific procedures.

4. Be patient and use caution when driving in school zones or near school buses

School zones and school buses are a good indication that children are in the area. Since children can be easily distracted, motorists must use extra caution and be mindful that children can step out from between parked cars or off a sidewalk with little-to-no warning. Be vigilant and alert behind the wheel at all times, but especially in school zones and near buses, and always follow the rules of the road.

On an undivided road, it is illegal to pass a school bus when the signal lights are flashing, as children are often crossing the road at that time. Drivers must proceed with caution once the signal lights have stopped flashing.

Learn more about safe driving in school zones

Parents should take time to teach their children and remind them about crossing the street safely, wearing a helmet while cycling, and staying safe when exiting their school bus.

Learn more about pedestrian safety for children

5. Review school bus safety 

Travelling on a school bus is one of the safest ways to travel to and from school. That said, injuries can happen. The biggest risk to school bus passengers is during the loading and unloading of the bus.

General tips for getting to and on the bus safely:

  • Walk to the bus stop
  • Get to the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus comes
  • Avoid using devices or gadgets that could be distracting
  • Wait five steps back from the road at your bus stop; don't enter the roadway
  • Wait for the bus to make a complete stop and doors open before approaching and boarding the bus
  • Always listen to the bus driver
  • Stay seated and facing forward at all times
  • Keep your head, hands and arms inside the bus

Learn more about school bus safety

6. Obey crossing guards

Some school's have crossing guards to help children safely cross the street. As a motorist, follow the instructions of crossing guards, even if those instructions differ from traffic lights; there might still be a child crossing the street that you can't see.

7. Be allergy aware and pack safe school lunches

When packing lunches for your school-aged children, make sure you're being allergy aware. Some schools impose restrictions on what can or can't be packed in lunches for the safety of all students;  be sure to follow the instructions of your child's school.

If your kids pack their own lunches, help them be allergy aware, too. The main allergens to watch for – because they're responsible for the majority of reactions in Canada – are peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, soy, seafood, fish, wheat, eggs, milk and sulphites. Reactions range from mild skin irritations to loss of consciousness, and in the worst cases can be fatal.

Learn more about packing safe school lunches