A Guide for School Emergency Response Team Kits

Incident Command Vest -

A Guide for School Emergency Response Team Kits

Emergency Response Teams (ERT) are a team of people, typically within a larger public or private organization, qualified to respond to emergencies. SERT members have many skills and appropriate training to use a critical piece of equipment for saving and protecting the lives of students and school personnel: the School Emergency Response Kit (SERT kit). 

Learn more about SERT kits, what events and incidents SERTs use them for, and what a typical SERT kit should contain.

What Does an Emergency Response Team Do?

An Emergency Response Team (ERT) or Incident Response Team (IRT) is a group of specially trained and qualified individuals whose job is to respond to an emergency, assess its severity, and ensure the safety and protection of others. They often respond to incidents like natural disasters or interruptions of daily operations like hostage situations. 

ERT members typically possess a range of occupational health and safety (OH&S) skills, such as first aid, emergency preparedness, communication skills, disaster triage, logistics, and other capabilities. They can be part of a public service organization designated before an incident occurs, like the military. However, SERT members can also include volunteers with the essential skills. 

Most SERTs have members trained for specific roles when disaster strikes. For instance, a member may be designated as an incident commander during a large-scale public emergency, or volunteers may work together as part of a unified command system. These roles may shift based on the size and scope of the incident.

Effective SERTs have a defined protocol to follow that helps mitigate an incident's negative effects.

What is a School Emergency Response Team

School Emergency Response Teams (SERTs) are ERTs assigned to a school or an educational institution. Their responsibility is to ensure the safety and protect the health of students and staff members during an emergency, whether natural, criminal, or otherwise.

According to the National Incident Management System (NIMS), any K-12 and higher educational institution can maintain a SERT, such as an elementary, middle, high school, or college campus. The role of a SERT is to ensure safety before the arrival of first responders (EMS, firefighters, police) on the scene.

What is a SERT Kit?

A SERT Kit, also known as a “go-kit,” is a bag, backpack, or another portable container filled with a curated selection of first-aid and medical supplies. 

At first glance, SERT kits may resemble the type of first-aid kits or classroom emergency kits designed for teachers and other personnel without medical training. Both kits may include gloves, emergency water rations, basic first-aid supplies, and cold packs. 

In addition to the essentials, SERT kits contain medical supplies and equipment that require formal training or special authorization. These items present a potential safety risk to the school, its staff, or the students and should only be handled by trained emergency response team personnel. 

For example, a SERT kit may contain devices with access to school administrative data, including sensitive personal information regarding students or staff members.

What Do SERT Kits Contain?

The contents of a SERT Kit are typically organized inside a large duffel bag on wheels (go-bag) or a can or bucket on wheels (go-bucket).

A quality SERT kit should contain all of the essential items a school ERT needs to respond to emergencies as efficiently as possible. A fully equipped SERT kit may contain the following:

School documents and personnel information:

  • A laptop computer, smart tablet, personal digital assistant, or an electronic storage device, like a USB drive or SD card, containing backup copies of relevant administrative data such as student accounting worksheet
  • Detailed paper maps of the school buildings showing the location of all exits, phones, wall-mounted first-aid kit boxes, defibrillators, assembly points, and evacuation routes
  • Blueprints of the school’s buildings, including the location of all utilities
  • Class rosters and attendance lists
  • Emergency contact information for each student and staff member
  • A copy of the School Emergency Response Plan and Management Guide or local equivalent
  • Informational and directional placards (Command, Triage, Media, etc.) 
  • Clothing, including bright safety vests for visibility and ERT identification

Emergency supplies:

  • Water, either in bottles or emergency water rations (EWRs)
  • Drinking cups
  • Disposable sterile gloves 
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Emergency hygiene sanitary wipes
  • Survival blankets
  • Tissues
  • Emergency whistle
  • Duct tape
  • Flashlights
  • Two-way radios
  • Cell phones
  • Spare batteries and chargers for all electronics

A SERT team can augment the SERT kit with first-aid and triage supplies to create an Emergency Health Kit (EHK kit). Examples include:

  • Triage kit containing emergency tape, stakes, and instruction booklet
  • First-aid kit containing bandages, sterile gloves, gauze, antiseptic pads, antibiotic cream, adhesive tape, cold packs, tweezers, itch cream, and other essentials
  • Zip-lock bags
  • Medications such as asthma inhalers, adrenaline injectors (Epi-Pen), seizure and diabetes supplies (meds, test kits, etc.), and other stock rescue medications
  • Dust masks
  • Special needs information for relevant students and staff members

What Are Classroom Emergency Kits?

A Classroom Emergency Kit (CEK) is a smaller kit containing supplies to address emergencies contained within a single class, such as a wounded student or a lockdown scenario. If needed, the contents of a CEK can complement a SERT kit, creating a larger pool of supplies.

Although CEKs feature fewer supplies and sensitive equipment than complete SERT kits, they can be used by teachers, educators, caretakers, and other untrained staff.

Contents of a Classroom Emergency Kit

A CEK typically carries its supplies inside a smaller backpack than a SERT kit (go-bag) or a five-gallon bucket with a lid (go-bucket). The CEK’s contents include the following items:


  • A copy of the school’s emergency procedures
  • Current roster, student attendance list, and emergency contact information for all students in the classroom

Emergency supplies:

  • Flashlight
  • Survival blankets
  • Portable radio
  • Large-size kitchen garbage bags (10 to 13-gallon)
  • Rolls of toilet paper
  • Emergency whistle
  • Duct tape
  • Scissors
  • Vinyl tarp or equivalent ground cover
  • Spare batteries and chargers for all electronic and battery-powered items

First-aid equipment:

  • A first-aid kit containing the same types of supplies as a SERT/EHK kit
  • Water bottles or EWRs
  • Drinking cups
  • Sterile gloves (nitrile preferred, as some students may have a latex allergy)

Other supplies:

  • Age-appropriate student activities (cards, toys, games, etc.)
  • Paper, pens, pencils, crayons, markers
  • Leather protective gloves
  • Safety gloves

Schools may augment a CEK with additional safety or hygiene supplies, such as moist towelettes, biohazard bags, and other supplies necessary for classroom emergencies.

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