Texas Emergency Management ONLINE2010 Vol. 57 No. 3

AGENCY PARTNERS: FEMA PROGRAMS FOR CHILDREN AND PREPAREDNESS

Students at E.J. Scott Elementary School Students at E.J. Scott Elementary School express their feelings and disaster experiences in art at the FEMA for Kids program held at their school. FEMA provides outreach to teach students the importance of being prepared for any type of disaster and how to make a family disaster kit. Photo by Patricia Brach/FEMA

Disaster can affect hundreds, if not thousands of people – from the victims, victim’s families and survivors – to first responders and communities as a whole. But even more importantly, disasters have a great and often lasting impact on our children – physically and mentally. We must remember that children are not small adults.

In August 2009, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate created the Children’s Working Group (CWG) within the agency, and tasked its members to lead FEMA’s efforts in ensuring that the needs of children are integrated into all disaster planning, preparedness initiatives, and response and recovery actions. FEMA is planning for the entire community, not just part of it, and children make up every community.

The working group’s goal is to create a lasting positive change in planning for, and successfully addressing, children’s needs when a disaster strikes. These goals are strategically aligned with the recommendations of the National Commission on Children and Disasters. The Commission recently issued its 2010 report to the president and Congress outlining gaps in disaster preparedness, response and recovery for children. Click here to view the report on the Commission’s website.

Several of FEMA’s primary focus areas on the topic have already resulted in action taken and accomplishments noted. The necessity to incorporate children’s needs into sheltering, grant and overall planning guidance resulted in FEMA integrating children’s disaster-related needs into several planning and guidance documents, to include the Comprehensive Preparedness Guide 101 version 2. This guide serves as a framework for all planning guidance and will be available online in the near future.

FEMA collaborated with the American Red Cross, the National Commission on Children and Disasters, and other pediatric experts to develop an Infant and Toddler Shelter Supply List. This list, which has been integrated into various FEMA planning and guidance documents, identifies the basic items necessary to sustain infants and children in mass care shelters and emergency congregate care environments.

Efforts to coordinate case management and crisis counseling support for children received a boost when FEMA and the U.S. Department of Human and Health Services – Administration for Children and Families (ACF) finalized an Interagency Agreement that allows for the rapid deployment of case managers to a disaster-affected area when requested by a state following a presidentially declared disaster. See http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=50037

To provide guidance for emergency managers and implementers of children’s programs on meeting the unique needs that arise among children as a result of a disaster or emergency, FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (EMI) developed a classroom/independent course titled “Planning for Children and Disasters.” EMI has reported 1,770 successful completions of this course since October 2009.

In a move to increase public awareness efforts in order to educate families and protect children during disasters, FEMA continues to expand on a pilot project initiated in FEMA’s Region I: the Student Tools for Emergency Planning (STEP) Program, which to date has reached more than 10,000 students.

To ensure swift restoration and reimbursement of child care facilities and services after a disaster, FEMA published a Child Care Services Fact Sheet which clarifies the reimbursement eligibility for child care services under the Stafford Act. This fact sheet can be accessed on the following link: http://www.fema.gov/government/grant/pa/9500toc.shtm

The initiative continues to evolve, and input from our state, tribal and local partners is appreciated. If you have any questions about FEMA’s efforts to address children’s disaster related needs, please email the Children’s Working Group at: FEMA-Childrens-Working-Group@dhs.gov.


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