Report: New Jersey Unprepared To Protect Children During Disasters

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—Almost five years after Hurricane Katrina, a new report reveals that New Jersey meets only one out of four minimum criteria for protecting children in disasters.  Ninety percent of U.S. children live in an area at risk of a natural disaster, and terrorists can strike anywhere.  New Jersey lacks basic protections for kids such as requiring all licensed child care centers to have a plan to reunite children with their families or requiring them to have plans for children with special needs.

The report is the second disaster preparedness report released by Save the Children’s U.S. Programs.  The 2010 year report found that 38 states and the District of Columbia did not meet all four basic standards and seven states met zero standards.

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Hurricane Katrina demonstrated what can happen when children are not accounted for in disaster planning:

  • 5,192 children were reported missing after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the last child was not found until six months later.
  • About 50,000 Louisiana and Mississippi children missed school in the 2005-2006 school year and approximately 15,000 did not attend in the 2006-2007 school year.
  • More than a third of Louisiana children experienced clinically-diagnosed depression, anxiety, or another behavior disorder after the storm.

“Five years after Hurricane Katrina, it is unacceptable for states to ignore these low-cost and common-sense safeguards for kids,” said Mark Shriver, Save the Children U.S. Programs Senior Vice President. “There are 67 million kids in school or child care on any given day in the U.S., separated from their families and dependent on the government to ensure protections.  The most vulnerable New Jerseyans in the most vulnerable settings are made more vulnerable because of government inaction.”

Currently, 12 states meet all four standards, which is five more than in the 2009 report.  All five states that qualified in 2010 for the first time worked with Save the Children’s U.S. Programs to meet the standards and, in many cases, adopted the exact same language as outlined in the 2009 report.

Commissioned by Save the Children and conducted by Brown Buckley Tucker, the report reviewed four key standards identified by Save the Children: plans for evacuation, reunification with families and evacuation for special needs kids at child care facilities, as well as evacuation plans at schools.

Save the Children urges the adoption of all four standards by states as well as federal passage of the Child Safety, Care, and Education Continuity Act of 2010 (H.R. 5240/S. 2898), which would require states to adhere to many of the same standards.  Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) is the sponsor of the House legislation, and Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) are the sponsors of the Senate measure.

To view a copy of the report, visit: http://www.savethechildren.org/publications/reports/2010-Disaster-Report.pdf


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