Michigan Gets Failing Grade on Disaster Plans

The school year has only just begun, but the State of Michigan already has itself a failing report card.

A national group has given Michigan the worst grades possible when it comes to disaster plans in its child care centers and schools.

"Michigan unfortunately falls in the worst category," said Richard Bland, national director of policy and advocacy at Save the Children. "There are only two states that don't meet any of our standards and Michigan is one of those states."

Save the Children is a group that works to improve protection for kids in emergencies. It was appointed by President George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina.

While 29 states passed with four check marks, Michigan was one of only two states without a single check.

Save the Children failed the state on its annual report card, citing:

  • No common plan for evacuating child care

  • No plan for reuniting families after a disaster

  • No plan for children with special needs

  • No multi-hazard plan for all K-12 schools
  • "Not all forms of child care in the state of Michigan are required to have basic, very minimum standards for childcare in the state," said Bland. "And the standard for schools, not all schools are required to have a multi-hazard plan."

    State law requires larger childcare centers to have basic plans in place, but doesn't require family or group childcare centers to do the same, Bland said.

    Ingham County Deputy Emergency Manager Rob Dale was surprised to see the results of the report.

    "Well at first glance it was more dire than I was familiar with," he said. "It stated that schools straight out don't have plans for disasters and I knew outright that that was incorrect."

    Dale couldn't think of a school that lacked a plan, he said, showing thick binders full of multicolored plans for everything from a tornado to an active shooter.

    "There's no formal state law that says a school must have a disaster plan," he said. "However every school that we've been in touch with and in fact every school in the state will have some sort of plan in place for these situations."

    Vince Perkins, Director of Human Resources at Waverly Community Schools, said he would be surprised if there were a school in the state of Michigan without plans for lockdowns, evacuations or sheltering in place.

    There is no reason to think schools are anything but safe, he said. They all work with local police departments to make sure plans are in place.

    "There might be a lot of schools that see your story and see we actually do those things," said Bland. "But there may be a number of schools and probably are, particularly in under-resourced areas that don't have multi-hazard emergency plans, precisely because the state doesn't require it."

    And when you consider that 69 million kids separate from their parents everyday to go to school, Bland said, it's a reason for concern.

    "Until the state requires a multi-hazard plan for schools, then schools won't practice different types of disasters," he said. "And until they practice it, those kids aren't actually protected."

    The Ingham County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is working with schools to come up with best practices to implement across the county.

    Parents have the right to see a school's emergency plan, but they usually have to ask for it in person at the front office.

    Save the Children wants parents to make sure the school has their contact information, in case of emergency.


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