Be Prepared to be Away During an Emergency

Kids hugging their mom before heading off to their first day of school.

July 24 is National Parents Day

Emergencies can happen anywhere, at any time, including when you’re not with your children and pets. It’s a scary thought. But you can take steps to protect them when you’re not around to do it yourself.

Camp & Childcare Parents

On any given weekday during the school year, an estimated 69 million children are in school and childcare.(1) During summer, some of those same children are in camps and childcare.

Parents, guardians, and other caregivers want to know their children are safe when they’re away from home. Camp and childcare providers play an important role in giving parents and guardians peace of mind. They should have family reunification plans and hold regular drills to help children and staff practice staying safe in the event of an emergency.

In addition, here are some ways you can prepare for an emergency that happens when you are not with your child.

Knowing camp or childcare providers have an emergency plan and the supplies they need to care for your child can help you feel better about leaving them in the care of others.

Pet Parents

Pets are family, too. It’s natural for pet parents to feel anxious about leaving their pet in the care of someone else, such as a pet sitter or kennel, or if you have someone nearby who can check in on them. Having someone who can check up on your pet if they are not somewhere safe can give you peace of mind.

Here are suggested steps you can take to help keep your pets healthy and safe if an emergency happens while you’re away.(2)

  • Make sure your pet has plenty of food. Write out feeding instructions, including portion size and other special considerations, such as the feeding order of multiple pets.
  • Check that your pet has enough medicine. Write out instructions for giving prescription medicines and where they’re kept. Keep medicines up and away from children and pets.
  • Write out your itinerary and contact information, including your cell phone number and the name and phone number of where you’re going.
  • Leave contact information for your veterinarian and one or two people you trust to make decisions in case you can’t be reached. Be sure to ask those people before you do this. Contact your veterinarian’s office to let them know you have a pet sitter.
  • Leave the pet sitter with copies of important paperwork, including a list of vaccinations and dates received.
  • Microchip your pet.
  • Make sure your pet wears collars and tags with up-to-date contact information and other identification.
  • Keep your pet’s carrier or crate near the exit. Tell the sitter where your pet might hide when it feels stressed or scared.
  • Prepare a pet emergency kit, including first-aid supplies and detailed instructions on how to use it.
  • Leave instructions about your home, such as garage door codes, utility shutoff instructions, and your neighbor’s names and phone numbers.

Prepping your pet sitter or a person you trust to check in on your pet can help ensure that your pet gets the best possible care when you’re away.

Reuniting After an Emergency

Separation from one’s family during or after an emergency can have mental and physical effects on everyone involved, including parents and guardians, children, and pets.

Reunification is the process of returning children and pets to their families as quickly as possible after an emergency. The faster reunification happens after an emergency, the better.

Learn more about reuniting with loved ones after an emergency.




Thanks in advance for your questions and comments on this Public Health Matters post. Please note that CDC does not give personal medical advice. If you are concerned you have a disease or condition, talk to your doctor.

Have a question for CDC? CDC-INFO ( offers live agents by phone and email to help you find the latest, reliable, and science-based health information on more than 750 health topics.

Children exposed to school shootings

The Washington Post maintains a database of school shootings (which is sad in itself that such a thing has to exist) to keep record of tragedy that the U.S. government does not track. They calculated the number of kids since Columbine who were exposed to such terrible events:

The Washington Post spent a year determining how many children have been affected by school shootings, beyond just those killed or injured. To do that, reporters attempted to identify every act of gunfire at a primary or secondary school during school hours since the Columbine High massacre on April 20, 1999. Using Nexis, news articles, open-source databases, law enforcement reports, information from school websites and calls to schools and police departments, The Post reviewed more than 1,000 alleged incidents but counted only those that happened on campuses immediately before, during or just after classes.

The events are terrible when they happen, and they go on to affect thousands of others for a lifetime — kids who were just going on with their daily activities.

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Schools should open their windows for ventilation

As schools begin to reopen, The New York Times illustrates why classrooms should open a window for ventilation. Lower viral concentrations swirling around means reduced exposure.

The 3-D model to show airflow was already something, but keep scrolling to see the cross-sections. Then scan the QR code on your phone to see the simulated data with augmented reality.

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Where schools are ready to reopen

For NYT Opinion, Yaryna Serkez and Stuart A. Thompson estimated where we’re ready:

Our analysis considers two main things: the rate of new infections in a county and the county’s testing capabilities. We used guidelines from the Harvard Global Health Institute, which proposed a variety of ways to open schools as long as the county has fewer than 25 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people. We also used the World Health Organization’s proposal to open only if fewer than 5 percent of all those who are tested for the virus over a two-week period actually have it.

The second part matters because if a higher proportion of people are testing positive, it could mean that not enough tests are being conducted to adequately measure the spread.

As you might expect, based on these guidelines, reopening in some places and not others poses disparities when you start breaking down demographics.

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What schools might look like if students go back

Dana Goldstein, with illustrations by Yuliya Parshina-Kottas, imagines what school might look like if students go back. Face shields, distancing, masks, and pods.

I’m having trouble imagining any of this working in practice, especially with the young ones.

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How online school ratings are flawed

Standardized ratings are a challenge, because they often try to encapsulate many variables into a single variable. On the upside, a single score is quick and easy to see, but on the downside, variance goes into hiding and people/things that don’t fit a defined standard get dinged.

Vox looks at these challenges in the context of online school ratings.

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School diversity visualized with moving bubbles

The Washington Post visualized 13,000 school districts to show the change in diversity between 1995 and 2017. Each bubble represents a district and the size represents number of students. The bubbles transition to diverse, undiverse, and extremely undiverse. It’s an important topic and worth the read.

But right now, all I can think about is that I need to up my moving bubble game.

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Unproven aggression detectors, more surveillance

In some public places, such as schools and hospitals, microphones installed with software listen for noise that sounds like aggression. The systems alert the authorities. It sounds useful, but in practice, the detection algorithms might not be ready yet. For ProPublica, Jack Gillum and Jeff Kao did some testing:

Yet ProPublica’s analysis, as well as the experiences of some U.S. schools and hospitals that have used Sound Intelligence’s aggression detector, suggest that it can be less than reliable. At the heart of the device is what the company calls a machine learning algorithm. Our research found that it tends to equate aggression with rough, strained noises in a relatively high pitch, like D’Anna’s coughing. A 1994 YouTube clip of abrasive-sounding comedian Gilbert Gottfried (“Is it hot in here or am I crazy?”) set off the detector, which analyzes sound but doesn’t take words or meaning into account. Although a Louroe spokesman said the detector doesn’t intrude on student privacy because it only captures sound patterns deemed aggressive, its microphones allow administrators to record, replay and store those snippets of conversation indefinitely.


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3 Reasons Why Handwashing Should Matter to You

Unseen woman washing her hands with soap in a sink.

Most of us are familiar with the parental-like voice in the back of our minds that helps guide our decision-making—asking us questions like, “Have you called your grandmother lately?” For many that voice serves as a gentle, yet constant reminder to wash our hands.

Handwashing with soap and water is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to loved ones. Many diseases are spread by not cleaning your hands properly after touching contaminated objects or surfaces. And although not all germs are bad, illness can occur when harmful germs enter our bodies through the eyes, nose, and mouth. That’s why it is critical to wash hands at key times, such as after a flood or during a flu pandemic, when germs can be passed from person to person and make others sick.

Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them, however during a disaster clean, running water may not be available. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.

Here are three key reasons why you should always care about handwashing:Your hands carry germs you can't see. Wash your hands.

  1. Handwashing can keep children healthy and in school. Handwashing education can reduce the number of young children who get sick and help prevent school absenteeism.
  2. Handwashing can help prevent illness. Getting a yearly flu vaccine is the most important action you can take to protect yourself from flu. Besides getting a flu vaccine, CDC recommends everyday preventive actions including frequent handwashing with soap and water.
  3. Handwashing is easy! Effective handwashing is a practical skill that you can easily learn, teach to others, and practice every day to prepare for an emergency. It takes around 20 seconds, and can be done in five simple steps:
    1. Wet your hands with clean, running water, turn off the tap, and apply soap
    2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap
    3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice
    4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water
    5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air-dry them

Promote Handwashing in Your Community

Global Handwashing Day is celebrated annually on October 15 to promote handwashing with soap as an easy and affordable way to prevent disease in communities around the world. This year’s theme, “Clean Hands—A Recipe for Health,” calls attention to the importance of handwashing at key times, such as before eating or feeding others, and before, during, and after preparing food.

Learn how you can get involved and promote handwashing at home, your child’s school or daycare, and your local community:

Math gender gap bigger in richer school districts

This is quite the scatterplot from Claire Cain Miller and Kevin Quealy for The Upshot. The vertical axis represents by how much girls or boys are better in standardized tests; the horizontal axis represents wealth; each bubble represents a school district; and yellow represents English test scores, and blue represents math test scores.

The result: a non-trend up top and a widening gap at the bottom.

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