Emergency Preparedness

Tennessee school personnel are charged with the safety and care of students during emergency situations, such as natural disasters or other potential hazards. The School Safety resources below include various training elements involved in emergency management in Tennessee schools.

What should I do during an earthquake?

Earthquakes can happen at any time with little to no warning. In fact, portions of West Tennessee lie along the New Madrid fault line. Preparing for this unique type of emergency can help save precious lives. The information below should help guide you in your efforts to prepare for an earthquake.

Be mindful that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur. During a quake, be sure to minimize your movements to a few steps and stay indoors until the shaking has stopped. For additional information visit the following web resources: ready.gov/earthquakes and The Center for Earthquake Research and Information.

What to do if you are . . .


  • DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there is not a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
  • Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, load bearing doorway.
  • Stay inside until shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.
  • DO NOT use the elevators.


  • Stay there.
  • Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits, and alongside exterior walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects.

In a moving vehicle

  • Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires.
  • Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.

Trapped under debris

  • Do not light a match.
  • Do not move about or kick up dust.
  • Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.
  • Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

Information provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency

(Offered in Conjunction with the Emergency Management Institution)

The Emergency Management Institute (EMI) offers more than fifty independent study courses. These are self-paced courses designed for people who have emergency management responsibilities. For most of the courses you will need to download and print the materials. All courses are available at no cost.  Furthermore, you may choose to take a test at the end of each module to certify yourself in each course.  Click on the appropriate link below and you will be directed to the corresponding course and materials.  This is a wonderful opportunity to broaden your knowledge of emergency management. 

For a complete list of training's offered by the Emergency Management Institute, or more information, visit the FEMA website.

Not only can emergencies take place at school, but at home as well.  It is important for families and children to prepare for whatever emergency might take place - in and outside of school.  Tennessee schools are required to have emergency plans.  Similarly, families need to develop their own plans.  Below are resources provided by the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other emergency management organizations to help you and your family prepare for the unexpected.

Talking to Kids about Disasters and Emergency Preparedness

Emergency Management and Kids

Schools play a unique role in emergency management.  Charged with the safety and care of our children, school personnel have a responsibility to ensure that they are able to appropriately handle an emergency situation.

This course will provide you with the basic information and tools needed to develop effective plans for the wide array of potential emergencies that schools may face. Also known as G364, Multi-Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools is a (2) day course that brings together school safety teams and their local responders for an in-depth review and revision course of their Emergency Operations Plan.

FEMA Guidance on School Planning for Natural Hazards

Tornado Danger Signs

  • Dark, greenish sky
  • Large hail
  • Low‐lying cloud that may be rotating
  • Loud roar, like a freight train
  • Sudden drop in barometric pressure
  • Strong winds >60 mph
  • Frequent, intense lightning

Terms to Know

  • Tornado Watch:  Tornadoes are possible in the area. Be ready to act quickly if a warning is issued.
  • Tornado Warning:  A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately underground to a basement, storm cellar or interior room.

Shelter Areas

  • Best Shelter Areas
    • Basements or interior lower levels
    • Areas with a short roof span
    • Away from glass or other safety hazards
  • Hallways:
    • Use interior hallways at a 90 degree angle to thru hallways that exit to the outside to help reduce wind tunnel effects.
    • Harden hallway shelter areas as needed to reduce exposure to flying debris and other hazards.

Do Not Use

  • Areas with large roof spans such as gymnasiums, auditoriums, cafeterias, etc.
  • Temporary or portable classrooms.
  • Hallways that have glass doors at each end that open to the outdoors.

Additional Resources