Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 9: Administration

9.2 Policies

9.2.4 Emergency/Security Policies and Plans Emergency and Evacuation Drills/Exercises Policy

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 05/21/2019.

Early care and education programs should have a written policy documenting that emergency drills or exercises are regularly practiced for geographically appropriate emergencies, natural disasters and violent/hostile intruder events.

a. Evacuation emergencies (eg, fires, floods, gas leaks, chemical spills)

b. Shelter-in-place emergencies (eg, tornados, earthquakes, threatening person outside)

c. Lockdown emergencies (eg, violent/hostile intruders, threatening/dangerous animals)

Early care and education programs should check their state licensing and regulations for specific drill requirements, including timing and frequency details. Staff members, children, and parents should be notified prior to a drill practice.1

All drills/exercises should be recorded. More information on evacuation and shelter-in-place drill records can be found in Standard Depending on the type of disaster, shelter-in-place and lockdown drills may take place within the early care and education program. Examples include earthquakes or tornadoes, where the drill might involve moving to a certain location within the building (eg, basements, away from windows). Evacuation drills/exercises should be practiced at various times of the day, including nap time; during varied activities; and from all exits. Early care and education programs should keep a roster of all children during the drill (Standard Use of Daily Roster During Evacuation Drills). Children with special health care needs and disabilities should be included in all drills to determine if additional attention or accommodations may be needed.2

Caregivers/teachers are encouraged to invite first responders to become part of their emergency planning, training, and drills.2 Early care and education programs should time evacuation procedures. Staff should aim to evacuate all persons in the specific number of minutes recommended by local fire officials (for fire evacuation), law enforcement officials, or emergency response personnel. A fire evacuation procedure should be approved and certified in writing by a fire inspector (for centers) or by a local fire department representative (for large and small family child care homes) during an annual on-site visit or other times at which an evacuation drill is observed and the facility is inspected for fire safety hazards.

During evacuation drills or when moving children from areas of potential danger, designated evacuation cribs can be used to evacuate infants and/or children with special health care needs or disabilities, if rolling is possible on the evacuation/exit route(s).3

In family child care homes, it is possible that infant rooms or napping areas are located on levels other than the main level, making written approval of the program’s evacuation plan by the fire inspector or representative from the local fire department especially important.


Regular emergency and evacuation drills/exercises constitute an important safety practice in areas where natural disasters and/or violent/hostile intruder events might occur. The routine practice of such drills fosters a calm, competent response to a natural or human-generated disaster when it occurs.4 Unannounced live drills with no prior notification to staff members, children, or parents/guardians may cause unnecessary and significant emotional distress.1 The extensive turnover of both staff and children, in addition to the changing developmental abilities of the children who participate in evacuation procedures in early care and education programs, necessitate frequent practice of the exercises. Representatives and first responders from local fire and police departments can contribute their expertise when observing evacuation plans and drills and gain familiarity with the facility and the facility’s plans in the event they are called on to respond in an emergency.

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Cribs Disaster Planning, Training, and Communication Use of Daily Roster During Evacuation Drills Evacuation and Shelter-In-Place Drill Record
  1. Schonfeld DJ, Rossen E, Woodard D. Deception in schools—when crisis preparedness efforts go too far. JAMA Pediatr. 2017;171(11):1033–1034

  2. State Capacity Building Center, Office of Child Care, US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. Emergency preparedness, response, and recovery: hostile intruders. How do states and territories plan for and respond to hostile intruder incidents? Published September 2017. Accessed December 20, 2018

  3. National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness, US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Office of Head Start. Emergency Preparedness Manual for Early Childhood Programs. Accessed December 20, 2018

  4. US General Services Administration. Sample child care evacuation plan. Reviewed October 11, 2018. Accessed December 20, 2018


Content in the STANDARD was modified on 05/21/2019.