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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Communities, Schools, and Businesses

Disasters can strike anywhere, anytime – often without warning. That is why it is especially important for individuals and communities – including schools, businesses, houses of workshop, and other centers of community life – to prepare for all hazards and threats. Every organization and every person can play an active role in helping their community prepare for, respond to, and recover from a disaster.


Individual and Bystander Preparedness

  • You are the help Until Help Arrives: You don’t need to be a medical professional to make a difference. Simple actions, taken immediately, can save lives! Learn about the five easy things you can do to save a life with this free online training.

  • Take Classes in First Aid, CPR, and AED: Exit Icon Sometimes, injured people can’t wait for the EMTs to arrive on the scene. But, learning CPR, First Aid, and how to use an AED is fast and relatively easy. Many classes only take a few hours and it is easy to find a class.

  • Put First Aid Apps on Your Phone: Whether or not you’ve taken a first aid class, having a first aid app on your phone can give you the information you need to act quickly in an emergency. First Aid app are available for Android and iPhone/iPad.

  • Make an Emergency Kit: Individuals and families should make emergency kits that include food, water, and other necessities like medicines and comfortable walking shoes.

  • Plan Ahead for Disasters: Know which disasters are likely to occur in your area – hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, flooding, volcanoes – and how to best prepare you and your family.

Childcare Centers, Schools, and Institutes of Higher Education

  • Planning, Tools, and Training for Teachers and Childcare Providers: Children are particularly vulnerable in a disaster. Make sure that your childcare centers and schools have plans, tools, and staff training to protect children during and after a disaster. Taking steps now can help protect the students in your care.

  • School District Crisis Preparedness, Response and Recovery Plans: Children represent nearly one-fourth of the U.S. population, have unique vulnerabilities, and might be at school when disaster strikes. The U.S. Department of Education recommends that schools develop and exercise crisis preparedness plans in collaboration with community partners. Because decisions about plans are usually made at the school district level, it is important to examine district-level policies and practices as well.

  • Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans: In collaboration with their local government and community partners, schools and school districts can take steps to plan for these potential emergencies by creating an emergency operations plan. Having plans in place to keep students, staff, and visitors safe play a key role in taking preventative and protective measures to stop an emergency from occurring or reduce the effects of an incident.

  • National Seminar and Tabletop Exercise for Institutions of Higher Education (NTTX): This series of campus-based events to test and promote campus resilience brings together senior higher education leaders and federal, state, and local representatives from departments and agencies that support campus resilience to participate in workshops and work through a designed emergency scenario.

  • Psychological First Aid for Schools Field Operations Guide: Exit Icon Learn how to spot the signs of stress in children as they grow and how to help them cope. For a quick overview, check out this fact sheet from SAMHSA. To learn more about helping students cope, take the Psychological First Aid for Schools Exit Icon course.


  • Preparedness Planning for Your Business: There is much that a business leader can do to prepare his or her organization for the most likely hazards. The Ready Business program helps business leaders make a preparedness plan to get ready for these hazards.

  • Planning for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations: The best way to protect yourself, your workers, and your business is to expect the unexpected and develop a well thought-out emergency action plan to guide you when immediate action is necessary. This guide addresses everything from what an action plan should include and how to alert employees about an emergency to how to develop an evacuation policy.

Houses of Worship and Other Centers of Community Life

  • Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship: With many incidents occurring with little to no warning, it makes sense for community organizations to plan for emergencies so that they can help keep their congregations, staff, and facilities safe. This guide is specific to Houses of Worship.

  • Plan to Give People a Place to Plug In: Many people in your community probably rely on life-sustaining electricity-dependent medical equipment. In a power outage, they may not have a place to plug in their equipment. If your business, community center, or house of worship has a back-up generator, let people in your community know that they can come over and plug in if the power goes out. To find out how many people in your area rely on electricity-dependent medical equipment, check out the HHS emPOWER Map.

  • Get Trained in Psychological First Aid: Exit Icon When a disaster strikes, employees, congregants, and community members may become anxious, stressed or have a hard time coping. Learn how you can help people using Psychological First Aid. The course is free, but the skills you learn could be priceless.

  • Disaster Distress Helpline: Depression is common in disaster survivors, but talking can really help. If a disaster strikes in your area, make sure that the people involved in your organization or business know about the Disaster Distress Helpline. Someone is always there to help – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  • Incorporate Disaster Health Resilience Projects into Community and Student Group Projects: Are you looking for projects for your scouting troop or another youth organization you mentor? Consider activities that build health resilience. These activity guides list a wide variety of projects – from creating a neighborhood health watch to throwing a community block party – that can help improve connectedness and health resilience within your community.

  • This page last reviewed: August 17, 2018