Volunteer State Community College: Vol State Classes Launch Emergency Planning Kits for Child Care Centers

Member Spotlight

Emergency planning has become a part of institutional life in America. Schools and community centers regularly prepare and practice what to do in an emergency. Volunteer State Community College (Vol State) students and faculty have taken part in a two-year project to help particularly vulnerable organizations: child care centers. State law requires that child care centers have emergency plans. But it's tough for a small business or nonprofit to find the time or expertise needed to develop a plan. Vol State classes have prepared and distributed emergency planning kits for child care centers in Sumner County. Vol State instructor, Penny Duncan, led the effort with her Early Childhood Education students.

"It's designed to be tailored to each individual center," said Duncan. "Child care directors can put in their own maps and their own emergency contact lists. The new standards that just became required last year by the state include reunification plans, getting kids back with their parents, evacuation procedures, and how to work with children with disabilities."

"We went to visit several day cares and preschools to see if they had a plan and only a few did," said Vol State student Tamara Tuckson of Nashville. "The project has been very enlightening for us and we hope it can help child cares be ready, especially when it comes to helping children with special needs, which was the part I worked on."

Holding safety drills with young children can be especially difficult. The plan includes ways to make such activities part of the curriculum and appropriate for the age group. Gallatin Day Care Center Executive Director Linda Boyers is also a Vol State student who worked on the project.

"You always think, it's not going to happen to me," said Boyers. "But you've got to know how to react and you need training to do that. If everyone is on the same page, the chances of everyone surviving an emergency safely are much higher, and that's important to me as a director, and as a parent and grandparent."

Volunteer State students show the plan to child care managers; left to right: student Debbie Dominguez, student Tamara Tuckson, and Donna Gregory and Gaye Hurt with College Heights Child Care.

The project is part of what is called Vol State Service Learning. The student work is directly tied to their class curriculum. Three faculty members and more than fifty students in several Vol State classes worked on the project. Students in Computer Information Systems worked on a phone app as part of the project. The Early Childhood Education students coordinated with students in Criminal Justice to put together the plan.

"The Criminal Justice students provided all of the emergency plans, the evacuation plan, the reunification plan," said James Brown, Criminal Justice instructor. "The education students prepared the process, to make sure the kids don't get scared and they have activities to keep them occupied during an emergency. The most important part for the education students was probably the training plan. Without proper training, staff won't know what to do in an emergency."

The plan is available for any interested child care operator in Tennessee to download and print for free. Visit the Vol State Early Childhood page and click on Childcare Emergency Plan.