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Choose Safe Places


What is Choose Safe Places?

The Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education program was created by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to encourage careful consideration about where to locate early care and education (ECE) sites. These include child care programs, Head Start facilities and other child-serving institutions. Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education gives towns, cities, and states a framework to adopt practices that will make sure ECE programs are located away from chemical hazards.

During non-disaster times, the principles of CSP are sound and well established. However, ATSDR recognized that natural disasters can have a tremendous and prolonged impact on the environment. Further, as jurisdictions seek to recover and rebuild from a disaster – essential decisions around the siting, building, developing and reopening of ECEs occur. As such, principles of CSP needed to be adopted to the reality that jurisdictions and ECEs face during a post-disaster operating environment. 

In 2017, The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) partnered with the Region II Head Start Association to respond to the disasters caused by the hurricanes of 2017. This funding was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s (ATSDR) 2017 Hurricane Supplemental Funding, Grant # NU1ROT000001-01-00.

The vision for the post-disaster tool for ECEs came from a request from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Head Start in the aftermath of the 2017 hurricanes. Through ATSDR discussions with the Office of Head Start, it became clear that there is no easy-to-use, quick way to assess the condition of ECEs after a disaster.


Our goal was to address this gap - and develop a tool that ECEs can use to help identify environmental hazards that may impede reopening after a disaster. The purpose of this product was to ensure it was easy to understand and use, met the needs of the ECE community and allowed ECEs to help identify what issues need to be addressed so that the program become operational again.   

The result is the below Post Disaster Self Assessment Form (PDSAF). The PDSAF can be downloaded below and used as a guide to help identify important issues when making reopening determinations post-disaster. The PDSAF is not a replacement for local or state rules and regulations governing operations, but may be used as a resource to ensure your reopening decision takes into account important environmental health considerations. 

Free Training

Want to learn more about the PDSAF? Please take our FREE online training. The training provides greater information and real-world applications on how best to use the PDSAF. The training is available in English and Spanish at the links below. 

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Creating healthy communities requires a wide range of affiliated practices. Of these practices, planning and environmental health are two with significant overlap, originating from a shared history and inherent ethical standards that encourage healthy places for all people. 

One way in which planners can support community health is by protecting children from hazards in their day to day activities. Planners can play an important role in determining if a site is safe to use as an ECE facility by applying environmental health considerations to development projects.


Through a variety of planning, regulatory, and funding strategies, communities can ensure that plans for ECE programs include considerations about environmental exposure (ATSDR 2017). By identifying potential site liabilities, such as harmful contaminants, before a new ECE center is opened, planners can protect children from being exposed to contaminants that could negatively impact their health. 

The following modules have been designed by the American Planning Association to provide professional planners with additional information about the various considerations when locating ECE facilities. 

American Planning Association Tools

Story Maps

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Planning and Environmental Health With A Focus on Early Care and Education

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Environmental Health Considerations for Siting ECE Programs

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Land Suitability Analysis

Safe Siting in Hurricane-Affected Areas.

Safe Siting in Hurricane-Affected Areas

English Story Maps


Parte 1

Planificación de la atención y educación

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Parte 2

Consideraciones de salud ambiental

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Parte 3

Análisis de idoneidad en tierra

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Parte 4

Sitio seguro en áreas afectadas por huracanes

Spanish Story Maps

Modules in English

Modules in Spanish

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