Emergencies happen. And when they do, preparedness is the key to handling them well.
Parents and guardians trust daycare centers to not only look after their children and ensure they’re safe but also keep them informed when harm occurs or becomes a threat.
Having daycare emergency contact forms on hand is mission-critical for childcare centers and preschools. Whether the daycare emergency is due to natural, technological, biological, or manufactured causes—your thoughtful planning can both minimize trauma and keep your children's emergency contacts informed about the situation.
In this piece, we’ll share a practical guide to creating an effective emergency form for your daycare and how to communicate with a child’s emergency contact.
Why is an emergency form for a daycare necessary?
Emergency contact forms are critical because they:
- Reduce stress by not needing to search for contact details
- Minimize trauma for both children and staff
- Inform children’s emergency contacts promptly
With the proper training, your childcare staff can use the daycare emergency contact form as part of a larger emergency plan.
What should a daycare emergency contact form include?
A daycare emergency contact form is only as useful as the information on it. Therefore, to be helpful in a crisis, each emergency contact form template should always include the four components below:
1. The child’s information
Having a child’s name and date of birth on a daycare emergency contact form can significantly help in a crisis. You may also list the child’s current age and weight, which may be helpful information for healthcare providers in a medical emergency.
2. The parent or guardian’s information
List the child’s parents or guardians’ names and phone numbers. Remind parents to list all phone numbers available to them, including a work phone number (if applicable.)
3. Emergency contacts & other authorizations
In addition to parent/guardian information, include other emergency contacts that may be available during the day. You’ll need parents to add the names and phone numbers of any other emergency contacts and ask for permission to contact them in an emergency.
4. Medical information
An emergency is the worst time to wonder whether a child has certain allergies or health conditions. Therefore, always include a section for the child’s known allergies and other health concerns.
5. Physician information
Including a section for the child’s physician’s name and contact information is extremely helpful in a medical emergency because it allows daycare staff and healthcare practitioners to respond quickly and get answers to medical questions.
In addition to gathering emergency contact forms, your staff should also be in the habit of communicating on a consistent basis with families at your center. Download our free preschool daily sheet template to keep families informed of their child's progress each day.
Duplicate and properly store emergency contact forms
After you’ve sent parents a printable emergency contact form, remember to make a copy of it after they’ve filled it out and returned it.
During or after an emergency, it’s helpful to have the document in multiple locations. Also, if your facility gets damaged or evacuated, you will need more than one way to access the emergency contact forms.
That’s where childcare management systems come in. Childcare management systems easily store multiple copies of your contact forms, especially if they offer a mobile option.
Make sure your electronic form or filing system has a mobile feature and familiarize yourself with accessing emergency contact forms digitally before an emergency strikes.
Electronic management systems also ensure that daycare emergency contact forms are readily available to all staff and teachers. When emergency contact forms aren’t accessible in an emergency, it can create dangerous inefficiencies.
Childcare management software like brightwheel allows you to lead well in a crisis. For example, you can access each student’s allergy information from the app's home screen, which saves valuable time if you suspect a child is having a life-threatening allergic reaction.
The nature of emergencies can vary, so your communication approach needs to be adaptable to serve the needs of the children in your care, your staff, and their parents. When your daycare emergency contact forms are accessible in multiple places, childcare staff can use them effectively in stressful and urgent situations.
Different emergencies require different responses
Each school or childcare center could face several emergencies: children get sick or have accidents, the carbon monoxide alarm goes off, a tornado touches down in the region, etc. Each situation requires a unique response.
Start by assessing the likelihood of certain emergencies at your childcare facility, and then plan for each possible scenario.
Next, designate roles for teachers and staff. Specify who is in charge of specific actions, such as contacting emergency services or taking a head count.
Also, you may not need to use the emergency contact form to make phone calls for every child regarding every emergency. For example, after two children with high fevers are sent home, you may want to message the rest of your families before the end of the day to let them know about a possible communicable disease.
Or, if everyone is safe after evacuating due to a false carbon monoxide alarm, you might send an emergency message to keep parents informed. Again, a childcare app like brightwheel can make it easy to manage these notifications from one interface.
When the time comes to use the contact forms for center-wide emergencies, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends communicating the following:
- What happened/is happening (e.g., type of hazard, response actions, and status)
- Whether all children are accounted for
- If, when, and where it is safe for guardians to pick up their children
- What they should bring when reunited with their children (e.g., photo ID)
In every emergency scenario, the AAP urges you to provide information as you have it but do not speculate. Of course, you can always update people with more facts, but quickly correcting misinformation is difficult.
Consider multiple lines of communication
Depending on the type of emergency, you may experience a disruption of typical communication methods. For example, during a power outage, you may be unable to charge or use your phone. Phone lines may be down, taking the internet with them.
As part of your larger emergency preparedness plan, consider the following:
- Social media pages run by your childcare center
- Online parent groups in which your childcare center is active
- Mass texts and teacher-parent communication apps, like brightwheel
- Your facility's main number at which you can leave an outgoing voicemail for worried parents and guardians
Ensure you and your childcare staff know how to alert emergency contacts with alternative communication methods. For example, if your cell phones get left behind, and you need to use social media, your staff needs the log-in information.
Similarly, make sure you have an emergency kit that any staff member can quickly grab that contains emergency necessities.
Ensure all staff members have an extra cell phone charger, change for pay phones, and the location of the nearest publicly available computers with internet access.
These safety protocols allow teachers and staff to focus on the most critical step during any childcare emergency: keeping the children safe.
Connect with emergency contacts after a threat has passed
The first steps in any childcare emergency, the first steps are always about getting children out of danger. That might mean any of the following:
- Administering first aid
- Evacuating a classroom or building
- Calling 911 or other emergency services
- Heading to a pre-determined location to shelter in place
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends designating a person who will reach out to a child’s emergency contacts listed on a daycare child's emergency contact form after all the necessary steps have been taken to ensure the safety of the child/children in question.
You may also make contact while determining whether a child needs emergency service. For example, you may need to reach out to that child's emergency contact(s) while calling for medical assistance.
Need help making a plan for your facility? The U.S. The Department of Health and Human Services provides many resources for early-childhood programs shaping an emergency plan.
In addition, guides may be available from your state's or province's governmental bodies, such as the Emergency Response Planning Guide for Child Care Providers from the state of Vermont or the Oregon Early Learning Emergency Preparation and Response Plan from the Oregon Department of Education.
Download free daycare emergency contact forms
A childcare emergency plan goes a long way in keeping everyone as safe and informed as possible. Knowing how and when to contact parents or guardians is a crucial step. Stay ahead by distributing a new daycare emergency form for every child, physically or electronically, at the start of the school year.
If you don't have one, download our free childcare emergency contact form template. Our printable emergency contact form has all the contact information you'll need from parents and guardians in case of an emergency.