Moore, Okla., residents visit their property as volunteers clean up the debris. The area was struck by a F5 tornado on May 20, 2013. Andrea Booher/FEMA
By Shantel Meek, Policy Advisor, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary and Interdepartmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development
September is National Emergency Preparedness Month—a time for us to take time out of our busy schedules to reflect, plan and get prepared for the potential of manmade or natural disasters. Whether you’re a parent, early childhood teacher or a policy maker, the safety and well-being of the children in your care is of upmost importance. Being as prepared as possible before disasters strike will determine how safe you can keep the children in your care and how effectively you can help them heal and adjust in the aftermath of disasters.
That is why the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has developed and compiled a rich set of resources to help families, early childhood providers, and policy makers prepare for- and respond to- manmade and natural disasters.
For families: As children’s primary caretakers, confidants and teachers, your support can have the biggest impact on how young children recover and heal after disasters. This set of resources includes customizable family planning templates, interactive preparedness activities, books and games for young children, and links to additional resources, including videos, tips, disaster-specific guidance and fact sheets.
For early childhood providers: Millions of young children are in your care on a daily basis. Making sure you are ready and able to keep them safe when a disaster strikes is your primary responsibility. As a trusted and loved figure in children’s lives, you are also on the front lines of helping children recover and heal after disasters. This set of resources includes training modules that inform how to prepare and recover from disasters, interactive developmentally appropriate books and activities to complete with children before- and after- disasters, and tip sheets from the National Children’s Traumatic Stress Network to help you and the children in your care cope.
For policy makers: Making sure your systems and networks are informed and have well-designed plans in place can help keep children safe, reduce chaos for programs, staff and families, and make recovery easier and more effective for all involved. This set of resources is a one-stop-shop for informational memoranda, state child care plans, template child care plans and guidance on ensuring the children and families in your programs are as prepared and safe as possible when disasters strike.
Disasters can happen at any time and in any place. Making sure children are safe and cared for before- and after- disasters is a shared responsibility. This month, and every month thereafter, we hope families, early childhood programs, communities and states use this rich set of resources to get READY, get informed and get organized in order to protect and support the millions of children that depend on us.
Here are a few resources to get you started: