5 Emergency Skills All Teachers Should Know

Last night, I had my first experience with an anaphylactic allergic reaction. My throat started to tighten. My skin became red and itchy. I began to cough, and my breathing sounded higher-pitched.

After several minutes of wondering if I was imagining things or overreacting (including calling the allergist to make sure I wasn't crazy), I realized my throat was indeed closing and went to self-administer my epi-pen.

But even though my school nurse had trained us on epi-pen use multiple times prior to field trips, I hesitated. I held the epi pen above my thigh and reread the label in a brief moment of nerves before actually using it.

I'm okay now, but after the ambulance came and left, I kept thinking about that moment for the rest of the night. I have more than one student with a life-threatening allergy in my classroom, and though my school is well-known for being extremely vigilant about allergies, there's always a chance that a student could react when I'm the only adult in the room.

Not to be an alarmist, but after having a background in Boy Scouts, where Emergency Preparedness is not just an Eagle-required merit badge but a way of life, I realized that some of the skills I had been trained on were a little rusty- and worse, that not everyone even gets this training in the first place.

Thus, here are the top 5 skills I am going to refresh on - the ones that I would gift to others too if I had a magic wand.

#1. How to use an Epi Pen. 
If you live in the US, you have some legal protection to administer an Epi-Pen to a student (under some conditions, such as being trained). If a student goes into shock and feels his or her throat close, you are probably the next best person to do it for them. You can read online about how to use an epi pen and when, and you can also order a trainer one for free. This is particularly important since a lot of students discover the hard way that they have an allergy - in the most inconvenient times and places.

#2. How to do CPR. 
I often find CPR classes to be offered in inconvenient locations and for more hours than I want to spend (and sometimes at a high price), but they are so worth it. Ask your principal if he or she will bring a Red Cross trainer to your school and conduct a class there, perhaps on a teacher work day. (Mine did!)

#3. How to respond to fainting and/or shock. 
I've had students pass out around me before as a student and a teacher - in marching band, in the church pew in front of me, and in a classroom. It's important to learn how to help someone safely lie down, keep airways open, stabilize their head/neck/back/limbs, keep them calm, and get help. (I say all this not because I am an expert, but BECAUSE I have messed up before, thankfully without consequences.)

#4. How to escape from your own classroom. 
We all train for lockdowns, but our school recently got local police training regarding how to evacuate in the event of an active shooter (scary), and one big takeaway I got out of that was how to correctly break my classroom window so that we could get out of it if needed. (My window's glass won't crack right unless you hit it in the upper corner and then practically peel the shattered glass back; it's made to resist crashing a chair through it.) Thus, I'm going to keep a little hammer in close proximity to my window, and if I taught on a second-story or higher floor, I would teach my kids how to correctly drop out of a window to minimize damage (hang from it first, then fall feet-first).

#5. How to notice cries for help. 
One time while student teaching at a high school, one girl seemed "off". When I asked her about it quietly, she started crying, admitted she'd come to class high, and that she didn't like how her body now felt. She'd never done drugs before that day.

All schools have students who come from risky environments or make bad choices. We have to be aware enough of our kids to see abnormalities and patterns, looking for signs of abuse, cutting, drugs, and other types of self- or external harm. We can't be superman, we can't be expected to be the doctor or psychologist, and we can't carry guilt if we DON'T know that something is happening - we're not responsible, and we're not to blame. BUT, we are legally obligated to report suspicious things we see, and we can possibly help someone who badly needs it if we stay aware of what our kids are doing quietly.

Is there anything you would add to this list? 
What skills do YOU think all teachers should have? Tell me in the comments below.


  1. I think it's really tragic that you have to teach your kids how to fall out of a window safely. I also think it's outrageous that teachers in your country need to undergo training for the event of a shooting. Perhaps something should be done about fun laws?

    1. It's not even only guns, though that's the most common. I've been in schools that have had bomb drills too. Shortly after 9/11 we had procedures for bombings as well as for if we were unable to safely leave school. We all brought in food and kept it in the supply clays in the classroom. We had enough to last all of us about a week. My college had had several bomb threats, 2 arsons, and one threatened shooting since my sophomore year, we've evacuated multiple times, turned out to be an adult student (over 35) who wanted to get out of exams/class. Schools in the US are safe for the most part, and most gun owners are responsible. The issue is mainly criminals who purchase guns or otherwise acquire them illegally. My personal thought is the only one who can stop a bad guy with a gun is s good guy with a gun. There are several schools in the US who have begun training teachers to use a hand gun and keep one unloaded and locked up in the classroom. That began getting attention after Sandy Hook. This of course leads to another set of potential dangers...what if the teacher losses it one day, what if a kid gets a hold of the gun ect. Many other schools are employing armed police officers who carry small hand guns on their belts to be on duty during the school day. Some have k9 police as well to sniff for explosives and drugs. The reality is there's no fool proof plan, everyone just needs to be as vigilant as possible to keep schools safe.

  2. How to use a fire extinguisher! We've been trained in our school but to be honest we are gonna forget! This not only serves the purpose of putting out fires BUT you can use it to spray in the face of an attacker or shooter and you can knock them out with it!