Is Your Diabetic Child Prepared for a School Emergency?

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By: Teri Lemke

These days, it doesn't take much imagination to envision a weapon,bomb, chemical, or biological threat occurring at school. Such asituation, although unlikely, is a possibility in today's world. Consequently, parents must consider whether their diabetic child isproperly prepared for a crisis. An examination of your child'sschool emergency plan may be well worth your time.

Schools emergency plans differ based on individual school layouts.Most follow a general guide and then tailor it to their specificneeds. Depending on the type of emergency, school and classroomdoors may be locked, or everyone may be taken to the gymnasium orcafeteria (where many schools store an emergency cache). Accordingto your school's plan, is staff clearly identified to assist yourchild in such an event?

If you are fortunate enough to have a school nurse, much of theresponsibility in an emergency falls on him or her. According toSarah Butler, RN, MSN, CDE, NCSN, of the National Association ofSchool Nurses (NASN), "the role of the school nurse is to work withteachers to create an Emergency Care Plan. Such a plan for anelementary or middle school child would recommend that parentssupply a juice box or a snack in the classroom. High school studentsshould carry a snack or juice."

A new program called H.A.N.D.S. (Helping Administer to the Needs ofThe Student with Diabetes at School), created by NASN, addresses howto handle such situations, says Butler. These emergency plans maybe critical if your child is locked in a classroom for any length oftime. Emotional distress alone may impact your child's blood sugarin such circumstances.

In an evacuation situation, school nurses are trained to carry anemergency backpack with health paperwork and supplies. Many schoolspractice for such situations, often timing themselves to see howmuch they can gather together on short notice. When there is nonurse on site, however, teachers and children must be prepared tocontend with a crisis.

Unfortunately, staff members may be overwhelmed withresponsibilities in an emergency, leaving them unable to reach yourchild with a snack or help manage a hypoglycemic episode. Moreover,if the regular staff happens to be absent on the day of anemergency, the substitute teachers and nurses could be unfamiliarwith the emergency protocols and procedures. Under suchcircumstances, children may have to fall back on their ownresources.

During an evacuation, is your child prepared to be delayed for hourson a bus? According to the National Association for PupilTransportation, glucose tabs are not among the first-aid itemsroutinely stored on school buses. What about walking more than amile to a safe house? In most cases, the school nurse would carrynecessary items. However, would those supplies be sufficient ifchildren were detained for a long period?

The bottom line is that in the event of an emergency, children withdiabetes are probably safest if they're prepared to tend to theirown needs. A frequent inventory of your child's backpack fornecessary supplies and food is important. But even this becomesproblematic if children are too young or are not allowed to taketheir backpacks with them during an evacuation.

So if your schoolplan contains only vague directives which fall short of a definitiveplan for children with diabetes, you may want to address the issuebefore your child is involved in an emergency situation. For moreinformation about H.A.N.D.S., go to the National Association ofSchool Nurses website at http://www.nasn.org/Default.aspx?tabid=411.

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