Planning For Medical Emergencies at the Day Care Center

Medical Security in schools is surely one of the most important issues on the minds of parents and school staff. What are some of the medical safety issues that really need to be addressed to ensure a proper line of defense? What pre-planning can be established so that the staff who first encounters a problem will know how to respond.

Realistically speaking, most early childhood programs are populated by two rather defenseless populations: young children and the women who are caring for those young children. School is a fun place where children come to play and learn. And school is a dangerous place where slips and falls, and different substances such as cleaning supplies or ordinary food could become deadly. We need to help teachers become competent and diligent in recognizing areas where prevention can help. We also need to ensure teachers are adequately trained to handle the specific emergencies that commonly arise in a child care center.

Health Care

First, let the school begin with an emphasis on prevention. Providing a safe environment for children to prevent medical emergencies from happening is everyone's responsibility. In this area, safety training for staff and parents can go a long way to improve safety standards. Toward that end, teachers can begin with routine inspections.

All areas of the classroom and equipment are checked for broken toys, splintering blocks, uncovered electrical outlets or dangling window blind cords.

Each day, before each play session, the outside play area is inspected for broken equipment, broken glass, or other foreign objects that may cause an injury.

Areas around classroom sinks and toilets are inspected so slipping accidents may be avoided from spilled water.

Food safety is ensured by keeping refrigeration temperatures in the safe zone through the use of an inside refrigerator. Suspicious food is discarded. Food that is cooked or heated is served only after checking it will not cause a burn.

A list children with known food allergies, and the food they are allergic to, must be posted in the classroom so that all staff members are aware of dangerous food items for those children. This list is not public information. It contains medical information that must be protected under HIPPA laws. Privacy is maintained by simply placing a blank cover sheet over the allergy listings.

Dangerous cleaning materials are locked and out of a child's reach.

Many schools have established a routine safety check list for teachers to use each day. The classroom opener is responsible for going through the check list and signing off on it that day. The daily safety check lists are filed away for possible future reference should an incident occur.

Second, let the staff be completely trained in emergency care. While the entire teaching staff needs to be aware of the importance of preventive measures, sooner or later, a true emergency will present itself. At that time, the staff will be expected to respond appropriately. This means that all staff members must be trained to respond to the most common emergencies.

In this arena, staff members can prepare by taking CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation), First Aid, and MAT (Medication Administration Training) classes. These classes certify teachers for a specified period of time. Upon the certification expiration date, it is imperative staff members take the certification renewal class.

Staff members can familiarize themselves with common products and plants that can be poisonous to small children. The National Poison Control Number can be posted in the classroom and at all telephones in the center.

Staff members can familiarize themselves with child abuse and neglect recognition information. They need to know their legal obligations in this area. The National Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline number can be posted in the classroom and at all telephones in the center.

It is an excellent idea for each school to have developed their own emergency plan and to practice that plan. For example:

Who will remain with the injured child?
Who will make the call for emergency services?
Who will call the parent?
Who will go to the hospital with the child?
If the building needed to be evacuated, where will the children and staff go?

And after the immediate crisis has passed, who will be responsible for documenting the incident for the record?

There is no doubt that if you work with small children there will be some type of emergency that develops. It can be a scraped knee, a head injury, a seizure, an asthma attack, or an allergic response to a bee sting. There is nothing like having an advance emergency plan in place along with emergency training to help staff meet the challenge of assessing the emergency and getting the help that is needed.

Planning For Medical Emergencies at the Day Care Center

Elaine S. Rexdale earned a BA in Elementary Education from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL and an MA in Early Childhood Education from Teachers College at Columbia University in NY. She has been an early childhood educator and administrator for the past 30 years and has served in public and private schools in IL, LA, and NY. Her website is

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