Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How safe would DC's kids be in a disaster?

The District of Columbia is one of 10 states of 51 counted (the 50 states plus DC) achieving three of the four criteria for disaster preparedness for children.   In 2013, the city has failed, like it did in 2010, to meet standard 4, having a multi-hazard plan for k-12 schools.   According to Save the Children's 2013 scorecard UNACCOUNTED FOR A National Report Card on Protecting Children in Disasters (PDF) standard 4 requires states
require that all schools have a disaster plan that addresses multiple types of hazards and covers a number of responses, including evacuation, shelter-in-place, and lock-down situations. Mandating fire or tornado drills alone is not sufficient for states to meet the standard since these activities do not address other types of hazards. The state standard should apply to all schools, including public charter schools as well as private schools.

The District succeeds in standards 1 through 3:

  1. Having a plan for evacuating children in early learning (child development, child care): The state must require that all child care providers have a written plan for evacuating and safely moving children to an alternate site. The plan must include provisions for multiple types of hazards. Many states have different licensing requirements and regulations for different kinds of providers. To meet the standard, a requirement must be in place for all categories of child care providers.
  2. Reunifying families after a disaster: The state must require that all child care providers to have a written plan for emergency notification of parents and reunification of families following an emergency. Again, a state may have multiple classes of child care with separate regulations and the standard must apply to all regulated child care providers.
  3. Having a plan for evacuating children with special needs from early learning settings: The state must require that all child care providers have a written plan that accounts for children with disabilities and those with access and functional needs. This standard must go beyond specific classes of special needs that may exist elsewhere in state code — it must include a specific requirement indicating how all children with special needs will be included in the emergency plan. The requirement must apply to all regulated child care providers.

Save the Children considers the four criteria to be minimum standards, the floor for preparedness, not the ceiling.

Parents and others concerned about child and youth safety can use the advocacy component, Speak Up, Send a letter to your governor, associated with the 2013 report.

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