Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Children are not small adults and require special consideration in disasters

A shout out to TBD's NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt for covering the Save the Children report card on state preparedness to protect children in a disaster.   DePuyt interviewed Mark Shriver, Save the Children's Vice President and Managing Director for U.S. Programs and chair of the National Commission on Children and Disasters.   Shriver gave the District both good and bad marks for protecting kids.

The real issue now, of course, is what the District will do to improve its ability to protect children and youth before, during and after a disaster.   On July 28, I reported the release of Save the Children's A National Report Card on Protecting Children During Disasters and how the District of Columbia fared in the rating—DC is one of 12 states of 51 counted (the 50 states plus DC) achieving three of the four criteria for disaster preparedness for children.

I also took a look at the city's 2008 disaster plan and the 2007 child development facility regulations in an effort to determine roles and responsibilities for ensuring child safety.   I concluded that much more should be done and made a number of recommendations including that HSEMA assess all child care center plans and, in fact, develop a template for disaster preparedness.   Child care programs are good at what they do but they cannot be expected to be expert in emergency preparedness.

The Commission's latest recommendations (PDF) provide additional food for thought and action and should also be immediately considered.   The August 23 recommendations involve a wide range of important issues such as mental health, planning and preparedness by all child- and youth-serving agencies (including juvenile justice and child welfare), and information sharing.   The final report will be published in October 2010 but there is nothing stopping EOM and HSEMA from starting on this critical issue right now.

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