When superstorm Hurricane Sandy hit the Jersey shore last year thousands of families were uprooted from their homes and apartments and many had to stay in community shelters. What some states didn’t realize is that mega shelters oftentimes leave children and their families in extremely dangerous situations as criminals, gang members, and even sexual predators all use the same shelter during an emergency. Children, in particular, are at risk.
Didi, 4, was one of those children. Her family was forced to stay in a shelter miles away from their home as their apartment was flooded and unlivable. Didi, who was usually a happy child, immediately became sullen and withdrawn. It wasn’t until Save the Children brought blankets, more nutritious foods, and made a separate play area for children did Didi eventually perk up.
“For a sensitive child like Didi, and many other children forced from their homes under great duress, shelters can be a very unsettling and potentially unsafe place, ” said Amy Richmond, a Save the Children child protection officer.
When natural and other disasters occur it is important to be as prepared as possible. Experts readily preach the importance of family evacuation and savings plans as well as emergency kits. But, how prepared is your state to effectively handle a natural disaster? You might be surprised.
Save the Children recently launched its Get Ready. Get Safe campaign and 2013 National Report Card on Children in Disasters that shines a much-needed spotlight on state preparedness for natural disasters. 2012 was the second costliest year for disaster destruction according to Save the Children. Their report shows that 28 states plus DC still fail to meet minimum standards for disaster preparedness, including keeping children safe in day cares and schools.
How Does Your State Fare?
Save the Children has analyzed each state’s disaster preparedness. If you live in a state like California, New Mexico, Alabama, Louisiana, and Washington State you can feel better when your children are in school are in day care or school and a natural disaster strikes. But, if you live in states like Iowa, Idaho, and Kansas you should be concerned. Other states are good in some areas of disaster preparedness and rank unsatisfactory in other areas. 17 states, for example, do not require day cares to have evacuation plans and 16 states do not require day cares to have family reunification plan. And, more poignantly, 24 states do not require child care providers to have evacuation plans for children with disabilities. Find out how your state fares.
What Can You Do?
Visit www.savethechildren.org/Get-Ready to read the report, see how your state fares, and also find tips on how your family can be prepared during disasters.
There are several actions you can take to ensure your state is better prepared if a natural or other disaster strikes. You can send a letter to your governor to make sure disaster preparedness is a high priority on your state’s agenda.
Save the Children has also created sharable state report cards that you can share via social media to spread the word.