A day care center needed to demonstrate it is prepared to manage emergency situations while safeguarding its clients in the event they are forced to evacuate or seek shelter. With all the anxieties parents tend to feel as they drop their children off at day care, the last thing they should have to worry about is how their little ones might fare during an emergency. Noah's Ark Child Care and Development Center recently took that concern off the table, with help from the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at McNeese State University. Noah's Ark cares for dozens of young clients daily, offering early childhood and summer programs for kids up to 12 years of age at its facility in Sulphur, Louisiana. Chris Duplechin, who is director of Noah's Ark, initially met the counselors at LSBDC when she was assistant director at another day care center. She had worked with the small business consultants to help develop an emergency preparedness plan for that center, and she knew that Noah's Ark needed to take similar steps. Louisiana requires that day care centers demonstrate emergency readiness in order to receive state license to operate. But more importantly, the families of the children entrusted to Noah's Ark need to feel assured that the children are being looked after in a safe environment by staff who are prepared to handle unexpected events.
LSBDC consultant Donna Little says Duplechin's previous experience with emergency planning for a day care center was a plus in moving ahead with the plan for Noah's Ark. "It's often hard to convince a small business to spend the time it takes to put together a real plan because it interferes with their everyday operations," Little says. Duplechin welcomed the chance to tap into LSBDC's expertise. She provided all the information needed to begin developing a handbook, including complete contact and other information about the day care center's staff, and a comprehensive database of the client children and their families. She says LSBDC staff produced drawings of the day care center and developed a plan for how everyone would evacuate or seek shelter in the event of a serious storm or other emergency event. "They helped me design the whole plan to evacuate," Duplechin says.
"They did the drawings of the building, typed it up, put it in a book, and made a disk for me so that I could (open the document) and make changes as needed." Duplechin says as a result of having the detailed plans in hand, the center can now hold drills so that staff can rehearse procedures they will follow to protect the children or evacuate before various potential emergencies, such as a tornado. "Now we know what we need to have in our emergency kit, when to evacuate and exactly where we should go," she says. The plan provides a measure of security that parents are glad to hear about when they bring their children to the center. In fact, each parent is asked to sign a letter saying that they have seen the emergency handbook and understand how it will be used. Duplechin says the help she received from the LSBDC is what made it possible.
"If I had to do it all by myself, it would have taken a lot of time that I don't have," she says. For more information on emergency preparedness, visit www.lsbdc.org or contact LSBDC at MSU at (337) 475-5529 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The LSBDC is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Louisiana Department of Economic Development, and participating universities. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.