From Superintendents with Disaster Experience: Tips and Pitfalls to Avoid

On January 4, Governor Newsom declared a state of emergency and mobilized the state ahead of winter storms. CSDC joined a statewide meeting with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, California Department of Education (CDE), and the California Office of Emergency Services (CAL OES) to discuss how school districts and charter schools can prepare for, and respond to, upcoming winter storms.

Across the state these storms are expected to bring power outages, building damage, and road closures from flooding, mudslides, and downed trees. The National Weather Service forecasts strong winds between 40-60 miles per hour, heavy rain, and snowfall above 5,000 feet over January 4-5. The coastal regions and the Central Valley are likely to be most severely impacted. Another active, wet storm is expected Saturday-Sunday, January 7-8, and again early next week, increasing the chance of emergencies statewide.

Resources for Schools and Families

Nick Murray (, the liaison to CDE from the CAL OES, recommended that everyone sign up for Cal Alerts, the wireless emergency alert system available in all 58 counties, that will provide flood alerts and evacuation warnings. He also suggested distributing the following resources to staff and families:

  1. Sign up for Cal Alerts for Your County
  2. One-Page Disaster Ready Card
  3. Disaster Preparedness Resources (Multiple Languages)
  4. Family Readiness Guide

Another recommendation was to contact your local Office of Emergency Management Services (OEMS) prior to an actual emergency. Joe Anderson ( from CDE suggested that schools Google their county’s Office of Emergency Management Services contact and get looped into their communications plan. The county OEM can help advise on critical decisions, like school closures and student transportation.

Kindra Britt ( with the County Superintendents strongly encouraged folks to connect with their county office of education for support and coordination. She reminded participants that there are some newly-elected superintendents across the state, and urged school leaders to reach out and open lines of communication by sending an email and sharing a cell number. If you don’t know your school’s county superintendent, she offered to make an introduction. 

Tips and Pitfalls to Avoid, from Superintendents with Disaster Experience

Dr. Amy Alzina, Superintendent/Principal of the Cold Spring Elementary School District, said she worked closely with the OEMS office during the mudslides in Montecito. Tight coordination allowed her to stay ahead of information and quickly relay updates to her board president, staff, and families. She used Facebook and NextDoor, as well as Parent Square, and an updated website to keep everyone informed, and has since used Crisis Go to help keep track of students and staff. She urged school leaders to...

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