Information for Site Volunteers

School Site Volunteers:

You've been recruited by your site's PTA to help with emergency preparedness.  What are your duties?  Most broadly, since preparedness activities are site-based --not centrally controlled-- and principals are ultimately responsible for preparedness, your fundamental responsibility is to follow your principal's directions

Your Task

Generally, principals will ask you to inspect and replenish classroom backpacks (elementary schools only) and to verify, replenish, and organize emergency supplies stored at your site.  You may be asked to assist with checking emergency information cards.  Some principals invite volunteers to attend emergency drills.  Other tasks are possible, depending on specific needs at your site.

Your job starts on the first day of the new school year.  Even better, get started as soon as you've been confirmed as next year's volunteer for your sight.

With your co-volunteer, if any, contact your principal, identify yourself, talk over what needs to be done, and agree on a schedule.   If at all possible, take a brief tour of the emergency supplies storage at your school.  If you're at an elementary school, take a joint look at a sample "Yellow Card" and briefly examine a typical classroom "Red Backpack".

Here are recommendations for how to do the most common activities:

» Checking Backpacks

» Checking "Yellow Card" Emergency Tags

» Checking Emergency Supplies in Storage Containers

Your participation in these and similar activities is an invaluable contribution to your community, your school, and towards the safety of your child.   If you want to do more, you will be most welcome.  Look here to see more about what needs to be done at each site.

Please contact me if you have any questions or comments, or if you 'd like to participate in broader school preparedness activities.

Henry Neugass

2004-2005 PTAC School Safety Coordinator


I've inspected the backpacks and verified the stored supplies.  Is that enough?

Any efforts you do to support emergency preparedness for our children and support of our school staffs is appreciated.  You might take a few moments to ask yourself if the preparations at you site look sensible and sufficient to you -- and you are strongly invited to view this from the perspective that at least one of the children being protected is your child.   If you decide to do more,  look here for a description of site preparedness activities as a whole.

My principal is overwhelmed with what I agree are much more urgent and important matters. What should I do?

First of all, welcome to the frustrating world of safety preparedness!   Your school office staff can often give you guidance in the name of the principal, subject to later ratification.  There are other sources of direction you may consult until your principal is able to give this matter more attention: precedent at your site, including last year's site volunteer, practices at other sites, information on this website, and direction from your PTA School Safety Coordinator. 

Should I ask for a key to the Emergency Supplies Storage?

Once she or he gets to know you, many principals are happy to give you a key to external storage (cargo containers) containing emergency supplies.   First of all, this makes it possible for you to do your job at any time or day without bothering someone to borrow and return the key.  Second,  in an emergency, you become an additional resource for the school in case another key can't be found.  Finally, unofficially, if a devastating disaster occurs outside of school hours, and it is a matter of life-and-death, you may want to make these resources available to the local community.

How should I organize the supplies?

There's no one answer, because the facilities and needs of each site differ.   That said, the most important criterion is accessibility.  Imagine you are teacher, a member of the first aid team.  A terrible disaster has occurred, and you know every second is critical to saving lives.   You're waiting for the storage door to be unlocked.  Will you be able to retrieve your First Aid Team Kit instantly?   

How should I package and place supplies?

Use earthquake-resistant techniques, and keep cleanliness in mind.  Use plastic bags when necessary to keep unwrapped or partly wrapped items clean.   Try to avoid stacking boxes on the floor -- these may shift during an earthquake and are a hazard to quick access.  Ask your principal for shelves or racks.  Use signs and tags liberally.   Your school office will be very happy to give you access to paper laminating supplies and equipment.  

What about paperwork in the storage areas?

Any single sheet of paper used for reference should be laminated if possible. (Ask your school office about the availability of a laminating machine.)   All manuals should be bound or in a loose-leaf notebook.     No loose papers!     Don't leave outdated paperwork around.

Must I check/count every single item, every year?

It probably is OK to estimate numbers with respect to small, non-essentials such as paperclips and moist towelettes.  But please make sure you look at and tally every single item of consequence.   This provides check that the item is in usable condition.  We don't want to find unusable items at the time of an emergency, do we?   By the way, don't open sealed container except in cases where you must to check an expiration date.

What about battery storage?

Do not store batteries "in circuit" -- that is, ready-to-use in a flashlight or radio.   Even though the switch is off, batteries can leak, ruining the equipment and making a mess. For flashlights, you may store the loose batteries and flashlight together in a closed plastic bag.

What about battery testing?

What happened to the battery tester mentioned in some old inventory sheets?

The old battery testers don't seem to be around any more.   Good riddance! Most testers don't check batteries "under load" -- that is, under actual use conditions.  It's very easy for a weak battery to appear strong if it is not doing anything!  Instead of using testers, we recommend that you check each battery in the appliance for which it is intended.  If the flashlight bulb is blindingly bright, or the radio plays deafeningly loud, the batteries inside are fresh.

How many of item 'x' do we really need?

Do I inventory to "Usual Packaging" or "Req'd Qty"?

"Usual Packaging" is for reference only, to help you and school personnel visualize items.   Inventory and replenish the amounts listed as "Req'd" (Required). Note that packaging sizes change over time, and you may be faced with some minor calculations to figure out how many of the new packages are required to replace the previous ones.  Keep your attention on the number of servings provided and make sure your replacement products equal or exceed the number provided by the item you are replacing.


School Safety