Emergency Preparedness and Response in Child Care

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Is your child care program prepared to respond in an emergency?

The process of developing and maintaining emergency plans, and regularly reviewing and practicing of those plans, makes it more likely your child care program and staff will be equipped to protect children when a disaster strikes. The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act requires states to establish health and safety standards that protect children in the event of an emergency. This page is intended to assist child care providers in the development of emergency preparedness and response plans that comply with state health and safety standards.


Emergency Preparedness and Response Rules

In Wisconsin, emergencies are often associated with weather events such as ice storms, snow storms, tornadoes and floods. Other types of emergencies that may impact child care programs include, but are not limited to, fires, electrical outages, vehicle accidents, allergic reactions, and threats to the building or its occupants.

Wisconsin’s child care regulations require child care providers to have emergency plans and procedures in place. The resources available to you on the Emergency Preparedness and Response page are meant to provide you with additional ways to assist you in your planning for, response to and recovery after an emergency.

Wisconsin Child Care Rules and Regulations


An Abbreviated Summary of Licensing Emergency-Related Rules for Licensed Providers:

  • An Emergency is defined as unforeseen circumstances that require immediate attention.
  • Providers must:
    • Develop and implement written policies and procedures that address contingency plans to be followed in the event of a fire, tornado, flood, extreme heat or cold, loss of building services, human-caused events, allergic reactions, vehicle accidents, a lost or missing child or other emergency. The plan shall include specific procedures that address all of the following:
      1. Evacuation, relocation, shelter-in-place, and lockdown.
      2. Ensuring that the needs of children under age 3 and children with disabilities are met.
      3. Communication with parents.
      4. Connecting children with their parents if the center is required to evacuate the building.
    • Practice the fire evacuation plan monthly, and the tornado plan monthly from April through October, with the children and document when the plans were practiced.
    • Review emergency procedures during orientation with all new employees and substitutes.
    • Provide child care workers training on techniques for evacuating sleeping children in an emergency, if the center is licensed to provide care between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
    • Post an evacuation plan and practice the plan monthly. Make sure other staff/caregivers know what their duties are if there is a fire, tornado, missing child or other emergency.
    • Develop and implement transportation policies that include a procedure for tracking children during an emergency and include emergency contact information in vehicles.
    • Maintain staff and child records/files that include emergency contact information.
    • Identify emergency backup provider/contact person.
    • Have a working phone and post emergency numbers
  • Children’s records shall include written consent from the parent for emergency medical care or treatment.
  • All employees in regular contact with children shall obtain and maintain a current certificate of completion for infant and child cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED).
  • Centers operating during hours of darkness shall provide emergency lighting, such as an operable flashlight.

For more information, see the child care licensing rules page.


An Abbreviated Summary of Certification Emergency-Related Rules for Certified Operators:

  • A certified operator shall have a written plan for taking appropriate action in the event of an emergency including a fire; a tornado; a flood; extreme outdoor heat or cold; a loss of building service, including no heat, water, electricity or telephone; human-caused events, such as threats to the building or its occupants; allergic reactions; lost or missing children; vehicle accidents; a provider’s family situation, such as medical emergency or illness; or other circumstances requiring immediate attention. The plan shall include procedures for all of the following:
    • Evacuation, relocation, shelter-in-place, and lockdown.
    • Communication and reunification with families.
    • Ensuring that the needs of all children are met, including children under 2 years of age, children with disabilities, and children with chronic medical conditions.
  • The plan shall be reviewed periodically and practiced as specified in the plan.
  • An operator shall have a written plan to prevent and respond to food and other allergy-related emergencies.
  • An operator shall designate an emergency backup provider. The emergency backup child care provider shall be at least 18 years of age and able to provide an acceptable level of child care.
  • The home shall have at least one telephone in working order. If a cellular phone is used as a primary phone, it shall be operational during the hours of child care.
  • The home shall have a list of emergency numbers posted in a location known to all providers, including the numbers for the police, fire station, emergency medical care, child protective services agency, and poison control center.

For more information, see the child care certification rules page.


Consider how you will prepare for and respond to emergencies and natural disasters. Ensure you have procedures in place to address natural disasters and other emergencies, including acts of violence, exposure to hazardous agents, facility damage, fire, missing children, power outage and other situations requiring evacuation, shelter or lockdown. Creating an emergency response plan before the emergency occurs helps make the response procedure quicker and more efficient.

Resource Guides

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has compiled information on how to plan for and respond to natural and weather related disasters including flooding, tornadoes, extreme heat, winter weather and much more. 


Your ability to respond to an emergency is directly related to your preparedness. It is critical you develop an emergency response plan in advance. Once you’ve developed emergency plans, it’s time to practice. The more you prepare and practice your emergency plan, the more efficient your response will be. Identify the type of threat and the kind of response needed to protect staff and children in care.


What actions will you take from the time the emergency ends until the needs of staff, children and families are met? What will you do to help families resume their daily activities and help those affected cope with the aftermath of an emergency? Recovery can last for days, months or even years. Incorporating recovery resources into your emergency-preparedness plan will help you reach your goals more quickly. Things to consider include reunification, damage and needs assessment, continuation of services, and mental health/emotional needs.

Emergencies Due to Food and Allergic Reactions

The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 includes provisions related to the prevention of and response to emergencies due to food and allergic reactions. Do you have a written care plan for children with food allergies? Are your staff trained in recognizing the symptoms of and treating an allergic reaction? Do you have procedures in place for preventing exposure to specific foods to which a child (or staff) is allergic? Your emergency supply kit probably includes items such as first aid supplies, hygiene/sanitary supplies, children’s emergency contact information, but does it also contain bottled water, snacks, formula?

Video, Webinars, Sample Manuals, and Other Media Resources

Helpful Online Resources

Mobile Apps
Check your app store for a variety of apps that can be used on your mobile device to plan for and respond to emergencies and disasters in your area.
Some examples are:

Step-by-Step Guides and Manuals

Additional Resources

Emergency Preparedness in the News