This school year many parents, including me, have surprising items on their school supply lists: emergency kits. Small bags of emergency supplies, referred to as emergency bags, comfort bags or kits, are increasingly popular with the back-to-school crowd. Some parents rely on school district- approved supply lists to build bags for their kids, while others purchase premade.
I’ve spent my whole life in Washington State, where emergency comfort kits are a normal part of life. School supply lists were released last week in my hometown. Jenna, a friend who recently moved here from Tennessee, called me to ask why emergency kits were included on the list.
Why are you sending flashlights and snacks to school? She asked. Don’t the schools have all that stuff? Does this mean I should be worried?
It was a question I’d never really considered before. Sure, schools have those items, but I want to make sure my child has access to them.
For example, what if my student’s class is trapped in their classroom, where teachers can’t access the supplies? Or out on a field trip? Or the school doesn’t have enough supplies for every student?
It only makes sense to prepare our children as much as possible, even if that means they become partly responsible for their own safety. It’s just common sense to teach preparedness in a state where earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, and wildfires are a normal part of life.
Preparation has been a daily part of life for as long as I can remember. Creating earthquake plans, drawing fire escape routes, practicing how to drop, cover and hold— these are all essential skills that FEMA recommends for even our youngest students.
Now, as a mother of two young girls, I’m passing these skills down to my own children. When my oldest enters kindergarten next year, not only will she have an emergency kit in her backpack, but she will know what to do with the supplies.
But Jenna’s question had me wondering: are student emergency bags a totally crazy West Coast thing?
The Earthquake Bag decided to do an informal poll on social media. How many parents would be sending their children to school with an emergency bag?
The numbers were interesting. Most parents haven’t heard of the idea but they all agree that it’s a good one.
"No, our school does not require a kit. It would be great if all schools had one of these small kits."
"We had to do this in California when the kids were in grade school. Each parent had to provide the items with their name on it and put all the contents in a large Ziploc bag. They were then kept in a big barrel and returned at the end of the school year. They also had an emergency card that the parents filled out with the idea that they would be put on the child in case of an emergency."
"No they do not. Is is quite a troubling thought actually since my son goes to school in a hill overlooking the bay."
"My 11-year old daughter is severely disabled and could use an emergency kit in her backpack. It would give me peace of mind that even if she’s at school or on the school bus she will be okay."
It appears that, while the bags are a West Coast thing, they might be catching on as parents across the country take charge of their children’s safety.
Here at The Earthquake Bag, our goal is to help families prepare for any potential disaster. Back-to-school is a great time to consider how you can best prepare your children, even when they aren’t near.
What is an emergency comfort kit?
Along the West Coast, many school districts ask parents to provide emergency comfort kits. These are the kits I grew up with. The contents of these kits vary across districts, schools, and even grade levels. However, the general idea is that these kits provide items that will assist and comfort your children if an emergency occurs.
Even if you don’t live in an area where these are required, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t provide one for your children!
If you’re considering adding an emergency bag to your school supply list (and you should!), there are a few questions to ask first:
What’s the primary purpose of the bag? Comfort, emergency support, or both? You can determine this based on the types of supplies your school or classroom already has available.
Where do you want to keep your student’s emergency kit? If you have younger students, you might request that your student be allowed to keep it in a classroom closet or their cubby. Older students might be inclined to keep the bag in their lockers, but it might actually be a better idea to have them store it in their backpack. This way they can access their supplies even if they are stuck inside a classroom.
What items are allowed? Some schools ban even the most seemingly-innocuous items, like antibiotic creams or Tylenol, because of possible allergies. Before you pack that kit, check with the school to make sure all your items are permitted.
What to include in your emergency kit
Your district may be one of the few that requires an emergency comfort kit as part of its back-to-school supply list. This list, taken fromKent School District in Washington State, is an example of what's included in a comfort kit. Notice how it doesn’t include any survival items, other than a flashlight.
A change of clothes, typically including a warm hat and mittens
Non-perishable food and water
Antibacterial hand sanitizer
Small flashlight with batteries
Tissues or Wet Wipes
Notepad and pencil, deck of cards, or other small entertainment
Don’t stop at the required comfort kit items, though. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t supplement the basics with some practical, school-approved items.
You can decide whether to buy a pre-made emergency bag or to build your own, now that you know what you need to pack.
Communication Card with a list of priority phone numbers
First aid kit
Some highly-prepared parents are already putting these kits together and teaching others how to do the same. We found this great blog post over at Mom With A Prep that’s explains how and why she put together an emergency bag for her children.
Why your student needs an emergency bag
You might think that there is such a thing as being over-prepared and perhaps you consider us West Coasters to be paranoid.
The fact of the matter is that, when it comes to my children, there’s nothing I won’t do to keep them safe.
Here are some of the reasons I’ve decided to send my girls to school with an emergency bag in their backpack. I want my children to be safe if they are caught in an emergency that requires them to stay put or barricade themselves inside a classroom. Situations like:
Lockdowns, including active shooter situations
I want my children to know that I’m doing my best to keep them safe, even if I can’t be there.
Comfort items like letters, photos, or books will remind my children that I love them and I’ll do everything in my power to get to them.
Children will be less likely to panic or experience anxiety if they know they have items that can help them during an emergency.
My mental comfort.
I will know that my girls will have what they need in an emergency. This will help me panic less while I get to them in a safe and timely manner
I don’t have to rely on the school to keep my child safe. I won’t have to worry that the school can’t access supplies or that they won’t have enough.
It’s the easiest school supply I’ll ever buy.
Unlike most school supplies, which need to be replaced each school year, I only need to buy or build an emergency kit one time.
It will only take me about 5 minutes at the beginning of each school year to check the kit for expired items, damaged batteries, or missing bandages.
Back-to-school can already be a worrisome time for families with new schools, teachers, and routines. Give your children, and yourself, some peace of mind with an emergency kit just for them.
You will never regret being prepared, but you’d certainly regret being unprepared in a disaster.