Monday, February 1, 2016

Outstanding Child Care Center Experiences Emergency

On January 20, 2016, a fire started during child care hours at KidSpace, Inc., a licensed center located in Vancouver, WA. All the children and employees evacuated in a quick and organized manner as noted in an article in the Vancouver Columbian. To read the article click HERE.

Having a disaster plan and performing regular evacuation drills are one of the requirements of being licensed to operate a child care facility in Washington state; for centers, this requirement is spelled out in WAC 170-295-5030. But beyond just meeting the basic requirements—understanding the importance behind why something is required, helps to motivate us to go beyond the minimum standards and aim for excellence.

No one wants to think about a fire or other emergency situation happening at a child care facility—but it happened at KidSpace and it can happen anywhere. Fortunately, this facility had a well-thought-out evacuation plan and practiced drills with enough frequency that children and employees did not need to think, but just react. 

A DEL employee in the Vancouver licensing office has a school-age child that attends this child care facility. In talking about the fire at the child care facility, the child initially thought that the evacuation was simply a drill because the teachers remained calm. It was only after the child got outside and saw fire fighters, did the child realize it wasn’t a fire drill but an actual fire!
Vancouver Columbian report shows firefighters
on roof of Kidspace.
 A licensed child care facility located nearby saw flames at KidSpace and offered this space to help out. 

This helped KidSpace employees keep the children out of the elements and block the potentially traumatizing view of the fire burning their child care center. Parents, emergency personnel and employees from the nearby facility commented on how the KidSpace employees remained calm and collected which let the kids know that they were safe.

After an emergency situation, it is a good time for all providers to evaluate emergency plans and make changes if needed. Mark Kastenbaum, SW Regional Health Specialist, has provided the following resources for emergency planning:
In light of the fire at KidSpace facility and the quick and organized evacuation—we want to use this opportunity to commend and celebrate the KidSpace employees’. The Vancouver licensing staff have been working very closely with KidSpace employees to evaluate temporary space for KidSpace to use while their permanent facility gets repaired and rebuilt.

After the dust settles a bit, we want to use this experience as an opportunity to study this scenario like a case study and work with KidSpace to evaluate their emergency evacuation plans and see if they would tweak anything if this were to happen in the future. By sharing this experience with other providers—we can promote sharing of best practices among the early learning community.

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