Two years ago today Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the U.S, and wreaked havoc – affecting 24 states, taking 162 lives,costing more than $50 million in damage, destroying 650,000 homes and hundreds of child care centers and schools. I can only imagine how hard it was for the families and thousands of children who suddenly lost everything, especially their sense of stability. The photo above shows 4 year old Didi in a New Jersey Shelter Save the Children Child Friendly Space post Sandy. Looking back, the enormity of the storm has me thinking how to keep family together and prepared in times of disaster.
One of the most critical things we can do is to have a plan – no matter how basic, and talk about it with our families. This past September 11th, we traveled to a family wedding out of town. One of my family members has teenagers who couldn’t make the trip with parents due to school and activities. My friend is certainly not an alarmist, but we all heard reports as we do every September 11th that our country was on high alert. She mentioned to me for the first time since the horrific attacks September 11th, she talked to her kids about a plan should something happen that weekend. Her plan: get home and wait for parents who would do everything in their power to get back home as quickly as possible. Simple plan, yet they discussed something to do in the event of the worst and had a meeting place.
Remember Winter Storm Leon last year, oh yes, the storm that paralyzed Atlanta last winter including our neighborhood school where children were stranded overnight because the buses could not get out of our neighborhood. I lived it and wrote about that here. It came fast and the ground was cold enough to ice up very quickly. With the schools open that day and the disaster of traffic that happened in Leon’s aftermath, it was a wake up call to me to talk to my daughter about what to do if you are at school and something happens or I cannot get to you, stay as calm as you can. We live in a world with storms and yes, I also worry about school shootings. I remind my daughter that when she is at school she needs to listen to her teachers and staff – especially in the event of an emergency and that we will do everything in our power to pick her up like the parents of the kids who spent the night at school did. After Leon, not necessarily related to bad weather, I also familiarized myself with the schools emergency plans in case they need to evacuate and I need to pick up. I now know where I would need to go.
I met representatives from Save the Children at the Type A Parent Conference last month – including Lassie, yes that Lassie. What a fitting mascot for an organization who invests in childhood, every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Their mission is to provide children a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. They are huge advocates on helping families prepare for disasters.
So what can we as moms and dads do to help prepare? Save the Children has provided some resources for me to share. Hey it certainly can’t hurt right?
1) 30-second Lassie video encouraging families to “pack and prepare.”
2) KNOW where to find your child in event of disaster at school with 90-second animated video encouraging reunification planning. Save the Children’s survey shows that 42% of parents don’t know where to find their children if evacuated from school or child care!
3) Disaster plan checklists for families and a child’s school/child care.
Find them and more here: www.savethechildren.org/checklists
4) Sign the Save the Children pledge to protect children from disaster. This will be shared with your state government if it doesn’t meet our disaster report card preparedness standards for schools and child care.
For those children who lost sense of stability 2 years ago with the landfall of Sandy, Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program allows them to express their feelings and learn critical coping skills that allow them to bounce back and more forward. Above photos shows children from NYC Lower East Side expressing their feelings through drawing in Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program. Without adequate support, children often fall permanently behind in school while they grapple with intense sadness, depression and anger. Save the Children continues to work with children in the hardest-hit communities in New York and New Jersey.
They are also here to encourage all of us to do what we can to prepare ourselves in the event of an emergency. For more resources, www.savethechildren.org. You can follow Save the Children on Twitter @SaveTheChildren.
Please share what you have done to prepare your family for an emergency at home or while away at school.
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