5 Field Trip Disasters (and how to avoid them!)

May 25, 2016
5 Field Trip Disasters (and how to avoid them!)

Losing Track of A Child

Everyone’s biggest fear.

There are two things you can do to avoid this. First is COUNT. Count with name/face recognition before you leave the school, once you get in the vehicle, and as you exit the vehicle (2 different people should do this). Then at your destination, count children every 10 minutes. Repeat for the trip home.field trip disasters

The second is to have to identify information on each child. Name, address, and phone number of your school. This can be a sticker on children’s backs or a t-shirt.  T-shirts are great because they’re easily identifiable in a crowd. But let’s say you go to the museum and there are 3 other child care groups there, with two wearing the same exact color shirt!  Hmmm, that could be a little confusing for everyone, especially children. That’s why frequent name/face recognition counting is vitally important.

Licensing requires teachers to be easily identifiable during field trips. This means wearing your school shirt, wearing a certain color hat, or something else easily identifiable. Your children need to be able to find you easily in a crowd.

And please, please don’t communicate to children your grown-up knowledge and fear of ‘bad people’ lurking around the corner. You be in charge of that information and act accordingly. They deserve to be protected by you and free to enjoy the outing.

Allergic Food Reaction

There are several things that must happen if you have children with food allergies.

  • First, you need their emergency care plan and medications required for a reaction. These must be WITH that child’s van driver and adult who is staying close to them.
  • Volunteers that are accompanying you need to be told what foods will trigger reactions, what the reaction might look like, and what to do if it happens.
  • If you are taking sack lunches or snacks, the child’s food must be in a different container, clearly marked with their name, so there’s not mistakenly given to someone else to eat.

Allergic reactions to food may take just moments and every minute counts!  Your first aid kit should have Benadryl – because crazy as it seems, anyone, at any time, can develop an allergic reaction to food!

Learn much more in our course, How to CARE for Children with Food Allergies.


There are lots of things that could happen when you’re away.

  • One way to prevent accidents is to communicate well with the kids beforehand. Describe where you’re going and what it will be like. Have a simple list of rules to follow, and review them often. Make sure they follow the rules when you’re away.
  • Supervise well and stay close to the children, especially those you know might be a little more inclined to stumble. Your quick reaction can prevent a fall or trip on the sidewalk.
  • Have fully stocked first aid kits with you, don’t leave them in the van, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea for each teacher to keep a spray antiseptic and some Band-Aids in their pocket. By the way, licensing requires there is at least one teacher with current CPR and First Aid training with your group. But let’s be generous and make sure every teacher is certified and knows exactly what to do in an emergency. Take our Course on Safety and Supervision!

Travel Problems

Drivers must know exactly where they’re going, which route to take and an alternate route just in case there’s a problem on the road.

  • Vehicles need a full tank of gas, a good spare tire, jumper cables, and a visual safety inspection before you load children.
  • You must have permission slips, emergency release forms, and a roll count sheet for the children in your vehicle.
  • Drivers need phone numbers for the destination, school, other teachers as well as parents, and make sure your phone is fully charged.

Each vehicle must have an adult on board who is the communicator – to make calls, get directions on what to do if there’s a problem and communicate that to the driver. Because drivers CANNOT use a phone while driving! And you certainly can’t check Google maps on your phone while driving.

Plan before you leave the school how you’ll stay together if there’s more than one vehicle going.  Talk about everything – driving speeds, what to do if you’re separated, the roads you’ll take, etc.  “Ya’ll just follow me!” won’t be sufficient.

And it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a case of waters in the vehicle, just in case. If you get stranded or stuck on the road, summer heat will quickly affect little ones.


So often field trips involve water. Even if you’re not going to a pool, there are often bodies of water in parks, zoos, and other places you might go. Think water features, ponds, troughs at a petting zoo, fountains. This is where close supervision and proximity come into play. Just keep your eyes peeled and be aware of your surroundings.  And count kids often.

If you’re going to a pool, even for swimming lessons by a professional, and even if there are lifeguards on duty, licensing requires that every teacher be able to swim and ready to jump in the water at any time.

As a former lifeguard myself, I know from experience it only takes a few seconds for a child to get in trouble in the water. Stay alert out there.

You may be thinking by now, “For crying out loud, we’re just going to stay at the school”. But odds are NOTHING will happen! Thousands of schools take field trips every summer and the benefits far outweigh the possible dangers.

We just want you to be careful, and being aware of the possibilities is the first step.


field trip safety checklist

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