Local child care centers prepare to turn evacuation plan forms required by state

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, KY — Severe weather can paralyze an entire community. It can be especially traumatizing to children. The state of Kentucky requires all child care centers to have a safety plan and share it with emergency management by the end of the year.

The Easterseals West Kentucky Child Development Center has already turned in the Evacuation Planning Form for Child Care Emergency and Disaster Preparedness form to the McCracken County Emergency Management director.

“We talk about safety in our classroom every day, so they know what it means to be safe,” said Kristie Dover, the director of the child development center.

The evacuation planning form sits in every classroom. Even classes with kids as young as 3 years old have an active role in staying safe.

“The children know with a fire drill when they hear that alarm, they’re so used to it that,” said Dover. “It doesn’t scare them now.”

Each morning teacher at Easterseals asks the kids, “What is your job?”

They all reply, “To keep our friends safe.”

Then kids then ask the teacher, “What’s your job?”

The teacher will reply, “My job is to keep you safe.”

Having the kids be a part of the safety plan makes it easier to put together the disaster preparedness form. The form is also vital to first responders.

“We want to ensure they go home to their families safe and secure each day, and they’ve had a productive day and mainly a safe one,” Emergency Management Director Jerome Mansfield said.

On March 14, 2019, an EF-2 tornado hit Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Their preschool had 40 children inside. No one was injured or killed. Today, Mt. Zion has rebuilt it’s preschool. The staff used what was on paper in practice.

“They implemented it, moved the children from their child care center into their number one relocation area,” Mansfield said.

Mt. Zion was a sobering reminder for parents and child care centers in our area.

“During that, we were also in the path, so we had to take our children to the large motor room. We were in there for over an hour,” Dover said. “So it was different than a drill, and the children got to experience that. But because of the drill, they were so calm.”

It’s a living testimony that being prepared matters. McCracken County has 28 licensed child care centers that must turn informs this year. Every center must submit its evacuation planning form to its local emergency management agency by Dec. 31.

Parents are also advised to review their child care center’s evacuation plan.