A school emergency kit is becoming an essential addition to every classroom. In today’s world, where school lockdowns are unfortunately on the rise, it is crucial to be prepared. A kit filled with supplies to help teachers and students can be made, creating a more secure and reassuring environment for everyone in the school community.
In March of 2023 our local high school was one of many schools across the country that had a hoax call claiming that there was an active shooter at the high school. That call prompted a major police, fire, and EMS response to the high school. It also locked down all of the schools in the city. One of which was my kids’ school.
I’m not going to lie, being on the receiving end of many texts and emails saying our kids were locked down and no one was allowed in or out was awful. But nothing was as bad as listening to my daughter’s story when we went and picked her up.
My daughter at the time was in second grade and had a substitute teacher that day. The principal went over the intercom and said something to the effects of “We are in a lockdown, this is not a drill. We are in a lockdown.” Her substitute did the best she could under the stressful and unknown circumstances. However, she didn’t handle it super well. My daughter ended up hiding under her desk for about an hour in the dark while comforting her friends around her. The whole experience has been very traumatic for her. We now have her in counseling to try and cope with the trauma.
Not only was she afraid and confused she also told me that she needed to use the bathroom really bad but couldn’t because they had to stay in their classroom. Fortunately, the lock down was only precautionary and there was no real threat, so the lockdown was lifted after the longest hour of all our lives. Had it been a real threat I’m sure the lockdown would have been a lot longer than an hour.
Where To Start
Fast forward 5 months and the start of the new school year was right around the corner. I got a call from a local junior high school asking me if I’d be interested in making emergency preparedness kits for each classroom, of course I was ecstatic, and said yes!
So, like I do with all things I’m preparing for, the first thing I did was think through which scenarios the bucket would need to be used. Where I live in Utah, the only two plausible scenarios I could think of where students would be unable to leave the school, locked down or trapped in their classrooms prompting use of the kits would be an earthquake or an active shooter.
The second thing I did was break each scenario down.
In the event of a long term lock down where students are locked in their classrooms, in the dark, and unable to leave the classroom what would they need? My immediate thoughts were a bathroom, food and water, lights, and first aid.
In the event of an earthquake causing a collapse of the school it gets a little trickier. If your kit is in the closet across the room, then it might not be easy or possible to get to. It should also be considered that power would likely be out, running water may or may not be available, and/or water lines could be broken, spraying water everywhere. Rescue efforts could take hours, and you have a very high potential of upset and scared students.
Now, you could go down a very deep rabbit hole of comprehensive items you might need/want, but when I was preparing these kits, I was working within a budget the school gave me.
What We Put in Each Kit
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Here is what we (the dean of students and I) decided on for each bucket/classroom:
- A 5 gallon bucket* to act both as a container to hold everything, but could also double as a toilet
- A garbage bag to place in the bucket in case it needed to be turned into a toilet
- Kitty litter placed in a gallon bag to be opened and dumped into garbage bag to help prevent sloshing and sound.
- A 6×8 tarp and duct tape to make a privacy screen.
- 1 roll of toilet paper
- 12-15 large 6-inch glow sticks
- 10-13 vomit bags
- A small first aid kit filled with band aids and alcohol wipes
- 1 whistle this would be better on the teacher rather than in the bucket in the event of a collapse and the teacher is unable to get to the bucket.
- 5 mylar emergency blankets
- A 24-count case of 8 oz water bottles
- Granola bars**
*If you are buying 5 gallon buckets check with your local grocery store for pricing as they may have the ability to be more flexible on pricing. We purchased ours at a local grocery store and paid around $6/bucket compared to Amazon’s $9.99/bucket plus $12.99 shipping even with Prime.
**Granola bars ended up being the hardest item we purchased. I didn’t read the ingredients and assumed all “Oats and Honey” granola bars were peanut free. This is not the case. When purchasing food for schools please read the ingredients to make sure you are complying with peanut free schools.
The junior high has 55 classrooms that needed kits so we put together 55 buckets and because of that we were able to get bulk pricing on several items. Our local grocery store (Macey’s for those in Utah/Idaho) helped us out the most giving us a discount on items purchased through them. Everything Macey’s didn’t have we purchased from Amazon, Walmart or Sam’s club. The total cost of the items with everything listed above was $46.44/bucket.
If you click here it will send you to my Amazon store front where I have everything I put or would consider putting in a school emergency kit. I didn’t have 5 gallon buckets on there, simply because I don’t believe in promoting something that you can get easily for more than half the price somewhere else.
Because I was working within the budget of the school I didn’t get to put everything I wanted to or would if I were just making one for my kids classroom as a teacher gift or something.
My Dream Kit
If I were creating my dream kit for classrooms with unlimited funding this is what I would do and why:
- 5 gallon bucket
- Kitty Litter
- Toilet Paper
- Garbage Bag
- 5 gallon bucket toilet seat lid: This I would add is a necessity for younger, grade school kids who can’t easily balance or squat over a 5 gallon bucket. A step stool would also come in handy in this situation.
- Privacy pop up tent instead of Tarp/Duct Tape
- Glow Sticks:I love glow sticks because they last for several hours, put off a decent amount of light, and you don’t have to worry about batteries. Plus, they’re fun and can add some distraction to the chaos.
- Vomit Bags
- Large First Aid Kit and Bleed Control supplies: I would purchase a larger first aid kit and bleed control supplies. Small first aid kits are more boo boo kits. They work great for a cut finger or a scrape. However, if you find yourself in a classroom lockdown with a student who has severe wounds and you are unable to help a small first aid kit isn’t going to do much good. But, having a larger first aid kit/bleed control supplies would be vital in this scenario.
- Whistle: I can give or take on the whistle. I think a whistle would work better on a lanyard on the teacher rather than in the bucket. Especially in the event of a collapse and the bucket is unable to get to.
- Mylar Blankets
- Water bottles
- Snacks: I would add in a bunch of snacks, fruit bars, gold fish, fruit snacks, etc. (Make sure they are all peanut free). Picture this: You find yourself locked down in a classroom with 25 hungry kids just 15 minutes before lunch, and you have to stay there for several hours. You’re going to need snacks and lots of them.
- Door jammer: The additional security of a door jammer adds another layer of protection to our classrooms.
Just like with all things emergency preparedness it is important that items get updated and rotated through. A classroom emergency kit with food and water that is several years old isn’t going to do much good in an emergency. Also, I learned on a camping trip, that glow sticks will expire so they need to be replaced every year or two.
Creating a schedule will help you keep your kits fresh. What I would do is add fresh food and water at the beginning of the school year, and then let students take home the food and water at the end of the year.
Emergency Kits For Every Classroom
Some schools may have variations of kits already that may just need to be updated, so talk to your school before taking on a huge project. Creating a school emergency kit would make a great teacher gift, PTA activity, or other service project.
I hate that we live in a time where schools need to think about emergency kits, but unfortunately, we do. My hope is to spread awareness and hopefully get emergency buckets in each classroom. Please help me spread this message to help our kids and when you make them tag me on Instagram @preparedlikeamother.
Do you want kits for your school, but don’t want to put them together? I am happy to put together your school’s emergency kit or simply update them. I am also happy to do a consultations if you have further questions on what to put in a school emergency kit.
To hire me to put together your school emergency kit please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.