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How to Prepare for School Field Trip Emergencies

Keep a first-aid kit and contact information at hand.

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Have you ever headed off on a preschool or elementary school field trip without giving a second thought to emergency preparedness? You’re not alone.

Many a first-time leader has traveled without considering worst-case scenarios. Then a student gets lost or is stung by a bee, and a leader learns quickly that there’s a lot more to field trips than picking a great destination.

While planning your field trip, consider the possibility that a member of your group could become missing or injured. Then, create a plan for avoiding or addressing the most likely risks.

Here are some common emergency situations you might experience, and what to do about them.

Preventing Lost or Missing Students

Provide students with matching, brightly colored t-shirts or bracelets, and set up a buddy system. Give children clear instructions on what they’re to do if they get lost while on the field trip, and never allow students to go into the restroom without a buddy. Depending on the age of the students, a chaperone may need to survey the restroom to be sure it’s safe for students to enter, and then wait outside the restroom until the children emerge.

Create a roster and bring it with you on the field trip. Check students against the roster several times throughout the day to make sure no one is missing (when leaving school, exiting vehicles, arriving at the destination, at lunch, etc.).

If any child is missing, notify facility staff or police immediately. Ask people in the nearby area to stay there until staff or police arrive so they may provide any information they may have about the missing student. Consider bringing a school yearbook or class photograph on the field trip so a photo of each child is immediately available.

Addressing Medical Emergencies

In addition to a well stocked first-aid kit, teachers should carry bottled water, sunscreen, a working cell phone, any emergency medications students may need, a list of emergency phone numbers, parent contact information, and the phone number of the area’s poison control center. It also would be helpful to have at least one chaperone on each trip certified in first aid and CPR.

If a student is hurt, determine the extent of the injury. If there’s a possibility of neck or spinal injury, don’t move the student. Summon professional medical attention immediately.

Otherwise, provide first aid and make sure an adult stays with the injured child. Obtain medical assistance, if needed, and contact the students’ parents or guardians as soon as possible. Complete an accident report afterward to document what happened.

Preventing Disciplinary Problems

If you have a student that acts up at school, expect five times more trouble while out in public. Up to a week beforehand, tell students about behavior expectations and discipline rules that they are to follow while on the field trip.

Make all chaperones aware of these expectations and the appropriate disciplinary tactics and rules to follow. If vans or buses are being used for transportation, each vehicle should contain at least one chaperone besides the driver to help supervise the students.

When a student breaks the rules on a trip, be sure to follow through on the discipline you have established. 

Avoiding Dangerous or Hazardous Activities

Adequate supervision can help keep students out of harm’s way. Generally, it’s good to presume that if you can’t see students, you’re not supervising them. One boy on a field trip to a zoo jumped several fences to get closer to the tiger’s cage without any chaperones’ knowledge. He proceeded to climb into the enclosure and was attacked by the tiger.

You’ll generally need one chaperone for every eight to 10 students. This number can vary, depending on the age and obedience level of the children you’re supervising.

It takes a lot of time to prepare for a field trip, but with proper planning, you and your students can enjoy an incident-free day full of adventure and education.