Sunday, January 5, 2014

It's an hour after a disaster; do you know where your children are?

In November 2013 FEMA in partnership with Department of Health & Human Service and the Red Cross and several other organizations released Post Disaster Reunification of Children: A Nationwide Approach.

This document listed lots of roles (responsibility's) for  local, State, Federal governments and Non Profit partners in caring for and reuniting children with their families after a disaster.  They did not assign any "roles" to the parents.  The intent of the document is to make sure everything is done to accomplish that, but it starts with you the parent. You don't have to read it, but if you wish you can find it at the hyperlink above. 
Having had unaccompanied minors show up at a shelter is not a good feeling, it is a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.  So what can you do so the government doesn't have to do anything or at least make their job easier.

1. Have a family disaster plan. I have written about this before and it is where everything starts. As the report points out, not only have a plan but "child reunification cards" a simple card with contact info (including an out of area contact) and places to meet.
2. Talk to your child care facility and/or schools. What are their plans? Ask to see them? Make sure ALL of your contact info is on file with the school/child care facility. 

3. Know your children's friends family's (an extension of know your neighbors). 

4. What is your local emergency managements plan for reunification? Remember the "roles" I talked about? Ask some questions.
5. Do you have a medical care waiver signed at your son's school or child care facility?
Read up on HIPAA and FERPA so you are informed, both of these are designed to protect privacy but are often misquoted and/or misunderstood.  

6. Always heed warnings from local emergency managers or  the weatherman. Make sure everyone leaves home prepared as possible for the day.  This may not seem like part of the plan, but it is!
7. And of course please do talk to your children (and spouse, parents, etc) about disasters and the planning you have taken to make sure everyone is safe.
This is one New Years item to take care of soonest.