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Save the Children's 2014 Disaster Report Card finds that 21 states still lack emergency plan requirements for schools and child care providers. At the same time, more than two-thirds of parents of minor children enrolled in child care or school in those states (69 percent) mistakenly assume protections are in place, according to a new national poll featured in the report.
In the past year, the nation has experienced at least 20 school shootings and 50 major natural disasters, according to the new report, titled What Are You Waiting For? Its release coincides with the beginning of National Preparedness Month.
As the nation's leading child-focused emergency response organization, Save the Children started its annual Disaster Report Card following the creation of the National Commission on Children in Disasters. That commission was initiated after Hurricane Katrina exposed deep weaknesses in the nation's capacity to protect children from disaster. Thousands of children were separated by their parents after Katrina, and it took seven months to reunite the last child with her parents.
The Disaster Report Card tracks four minimum standards drawn from recommendations of the Commission. They are that states require: all child care providers to have 1) evacuation and relocation plans, 2) family-child reunification plans and 3) a plan for children with special needs—and—that all K-12 schools have 4) a written, multi-hazard emergency plan.
In 2008, only four states met all standards. In the new report, the number is up to 29 and a record seven states have moved to meet all four standards in the past year. They are Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Texas. Kansas also moved to meet the child care standards, but still lacks the school standard. Idaho now meets the school standard, but still lacks the child care standards.
An interactive map shows which of the four standards 21 states and the District of Columbia still fail to meet. The failing states are: Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Virginia.
In addition to its annual ranking of states, Save the Children this year also commissioned a nationally representative Harris Poll online survey of 1,012 parents of children under age 18 enrolled in child care or school, to determine how well prepared they are for an emergency. A new infographic highlights key results.
"It is alarming how parents often don't know what protections are or aren't in place at their child's school or child care," Spangler added.
The poll found that across the country 63 percent of parents are not very familiar with emergency plans at their child's school or child care, and that 67 percent don't know if emergency drills are practiced frequently, or at all.
Additionally, 42 percent of parents wouldn't know where to reunite with a child if their school or child care were evacuated. Save the Children's new video, "Where Are You?" demonstrates the importance of reunification planning.
"We've seen some states make progress in emergency preparedness, but it's not nearly enough," Spangler said. "We know that children are the most vulnerable during disasters. So it is essential that parents step up and make sure any gaps in preparedness are filled. For the most part, that's not happening."
Save the Children's report also included an analysis finding that for every $10 in federal emergency preparedness grants (2004-2012), less than one penny has targeted children's safety.