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Federal Emergency Response Now Includes Human Services

Emergency Response

Satellite image of Hurricane Sandy slowly moving westwardIn Connecticut, ACF emergency responders are ensuring that the Hurricane Sandy shelters are able to meet child and family needs. In New York and New Jersey, ACF is assessing the state of Head Start and childcare centers, determining the level of damage and coordinating response. Throughout the eastern seaboard, ACF is publicizing the domestic violence hotline because we know that domestic violence incidents increase during natural disasters.

Addressing human services is one of the critical improvements to the federal emergency response system since Hurricane Katrina dealt such a devastating blow to New Orleans in 2005. Carried out by the Office of Human Services Emergency Preparedness and Response (OHSEPR) in the Administration for Children and Families, in partnership with the ten ACF Regional Administrators’ offices, this work reflects the understanding that emergency response calls for not only immediate shelter, food and medical care, but also for ensuring that essential human services remain available.

Addressing human services in an emergency helps lessen the trauma of these events, particularly for children, while it lays critical groundwork for community recovery. Last year, for example, OHSEPR, ACF Region 7 and ACF’s Office of Child Care provided coordination to restore childcare services in Joplin, MO, after a tornado shattered that community and destroyed 19 childcare centers. This coordination led to solutions that would both meet children’s physical and psychological needs, while allowing adults to get back to the difficult work of rebuilding their town.

The Joplin tornado was one of 34 presidentially declared disasters in 21 U.S. states and territories where OHSEPR engaged in response and recovery efforts in 2011. These events included earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires and severe winter storms.

This week, as Hurricane Sandy approached our shores, President Obama urged caution and assured the American people that resources were pre-positioned for an effective response to the storm. Thanks to the work of the emergency responders in the Administration for Children and Families, human services support is now part of that effective response.

Stay in touch with the latest news from OHSEPR on Twitter @ohsepr. Help spread important disaster response news by re-tweeting information on meeting children’s needs in the storm, family storm preparedness and domestic violence services.

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