Schools and Emergency Evacuation

By: Dr. Kumar Raka, Editor-ICN 

ISRAEL: School Safety Programme is one of the most important components of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). In order to save children’s lives and protect damages in infrastructures and investments costs in the education sector, all the States should be committed and started implementing school safety programmes in line with the Guidelines of Govt. of India.

The Supreme Court of India directed all state governments to ensure that the Centre’s guidelines on safety and security of children are implemented in “reality” in every school of the country. Various global and regional declarations and frameworks, for example, the 2nd ASEAN Regional Conference on School Safety held on Feb 14-17, 2017 at Bangkok noted “100 million children in ASEAN are at risk in schools located in disaster-prone areas; absence of regulatory framework, lack of budgetary allocation and technical skills for safe school assessment”; the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2010-11, and its successor, the Sendai Framework for DRR etc.

Despite, in recent past, schools in India have witnessed many disasters. To name a few, in 2001 a total of 31 teachers died and 95 were injured; 971 students perished and 1,051 were injured in the Bhuj Earthquake Gujarat. Formal education was disrupted due to widespread damage to physical infrastructure.

A more devastating earthquake took place in 2005 in (POK) Jammu & Kashmir in which as per Govt. figures 19,000 children died in the earthquake, most of them in widespread collapses of school buildings. A fire at the Lord Krishna School in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu took the lives of 94 children in 2004; thousands of students and teachers were killed, injured or otherwise affected in the 2004 South Asia Tsunami. Over 400 people – about half of them students – at a school’s prize giving ceremony in Dabwali, Haryana burnt alive in Dec, 1995.

The Public Problem

Schools in India are not ready for emergency evacuation in case of any emergency. School is a place where hundreds/ thousands of children of all age groups come for education on a daily basis. Ordinarily, these children stay in the school premises for 6-8 hours. During their stay in the school premises, the safety and security of these children is among the first and foremost responsibilities of the respective Heads of Schools and the staffs. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that every school must have a sound Emergency Response Mechanism in place in order to deal effectively with the evacuation processes during the natural and human induced disasters (such as earthquake, fire, stampedes, terror attacks and gas leaks etc). Also, children are the ‘Brand Ambassadors’ of Disaster Risk Reduction Activities (DRR) as they are the future citizens and have very positive impacts of their learning within their families, peer-groups, neighborhood and society.


To make schools prepare for evacuation in case of any emergency through preparation of School Safety Plans.

The Criteria

Clearly the country has not reached a state where its future (the children, school kids) are in a safe environment. Although a federal system, but school safety can be managed in a very efficient and well coordinated manner. This is both because of lack of awareness in schools, students and the parents and also because of very poor implementation of existing guidelines and rules.  

The Alternatives

  • It is not sufficient to observe the foundation day for Apex body of Disaster Management after13 years of its establishment on a general theme like School Safety, which is very basic and prime in DRR activities; it needs to be translated primarily into action in the existing federal system.
  • The federal system in India is highly political but Apex bodies like NDMA (whose Chairman is the Prime Minister of India himself) should think in term of totality without any discrimination of the ruling party in any particular state or the business interest.

Analysis of alternatives and trade-offs

The reason behind all the incidents mentioned in abstract were the poor school buildings; no disaster management plans; untrained students, teachers and staffs; no proper evacuation plan or signs in the schools; lack of training to teachers, children and staffs and above all no drills for safe evacuation. This is more evident in government schools rather than private schools in India because of relatively well infrastructure, well educated staff and better management techniques of private schools.

But at the same time, most of the private schools also are not aware of the need and requirement. Therefore, the problem is so pressing that National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) of India released the National Disaster Management Guidelines on School Safety Policy in February, 2016 with an aim to strengthen the risk resilience of schools across the country and observed its 13th Foundation Day with the theme “School Safety” in Sept 2017. India is a federal system.

As per the Disaster Management Act (DM Act), 2005 passed from both houses of parliament, Disaster Management is a State subject like policing or law and order. That empowers States to do and act on their own for DRR activities. Some States of India has done exceptionally well, while some are still in the 19th Century. Focusing here on “School Safety”; what was the reason for observing the Apex Body of Government to dedicate its 13th Foundation Day on School Safety (12 years after its establishment)???? Reply is in the first few lines of the paragraph.


For Central Government

  • The Central government will cancel license and any further financial aid to those schools who do not have prepared School Safety/ Evacuation Plans as per guidelines of the NDMA and as per directions of the Supreme Court of India.
  • As per NDMA’s guidelines every school, public or private, need to make its School Safety and Evacuation Plan within 12 months and State Government would be responsible to support the Schools, monitor the progress and report to the Central Government.

For State Governments

  • The State government will abide by the rules formulated by the Central government to prepare School Safety Guidelines as per suggestions of NDMA/ SDMA that is in line with the directions of the Supreme Court of India and direct the State Education Ministry & State Disaster Management Authorities.
  • The State Education Ministry/ State Disaster Management Authorities will issue advisory to all the districts under its jurisdiction to follow the directions and report the compliance within 9 months.

For District Administration

  • The District Magistrate vide it’s District Education Officer (DEO) will circulate the directives to both the Public and Private schools under its jurisdiction to prepare a school safety/ evacuation plan within a specified time period.
    • The DEO will also contact the District Disaster Management Authorities (DDMAs), NGOs working in the field of Disaster and Emergency Management, domain Experts, retired personnel who have experience in preparation of School
    • Safety/ Evacuation Plan in consultation with various line departments of the district and provide it to the School Principals with directives to prepare the plan within 6 months.
    • The DEO would coordinate each school with a school safety/ evacuation domain expert.
    • No further transfer, posting or promotion will be allowed for DEOs and School Principals until the school safety/ evacuation plan is prepared and tested.

    For School Administration and Teachers

    • The Principal/ Chairman/ Head of the School may nominate its physical education teacher or the smartest teacher of the schools to coordinate with the DEO, the Disaster/ Emergency Management Expert, and DDMA to prepare and finalize the Plan within 3 months.
    • The nominated teachers/ staffs (floor marshals) would be responsible to highlight the problematic area such as if there is no safe evacuation space available within schools premises, larger number of disabled students within the schools, unsafe structures, no emergency/ exit signs etc and will bring it to the notice of School Principal/ domain expert within 2 weeks.
    • The domain expert will find solutions to the identified problems within next 2 weeks in consultation with the school principal, DEO & DDMA staffs and prepare the School Safety/ Evacuation Plan accordingly.
    • After preparation of the school safety/ evacuation plan mock drills will be conducted in presence of the school principals, floor marshals and domain experts.
    • The gaps in the first mock drill would be identified, rectified and improved upon. Five to six mock drills would be conducted in next two months and a success report would be submitted by the school authorities to the district administration.
    • The mock drills would be mandatory to conduct quarterly to practice fastest and safe evacuation during any emergency.

    For District Disaster Management Authority

    • The DDMA would extend all its support to the schools administration in ensuring that the School Safety/ Evacuation Plans are being prepared and would also keep monitoring of the entire processes and timelines. DDMA in association with School authorities will also be responsible for reporting to the District Magistrate and SDMA both.


  • It is not a herculean task to prepare schools of India for an emergency evacuation with proper policy planning and its implementation. Seriously taken and implemented, it is not more than a year’s task if on priority list of the government. 
  • Financial considerations have not been taken care in this study assuming and knowing the fact that NDMA/ SDMAs/ DDMAs have sufficient funds for disaster preparedness and mitigation measures. However, practically it has been found that preparing a School Safety/ Evacuation Plan with the help of domain expert costs around 80-100 USD, except finances involved in mitigation of structural problems. Not and never a big task given the financial allocations to the GoI and State Govts, it needs only political and bureaucratic willingness. Same is true with recurring flood problems of India.

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