Study: Most states, including Florida, lack disaster plans for kids

LAKELAND, Fla. - A new report out says Florida may not be doing enough to protect kids during disasters.

The report says most states still don't require four basic safety plans to protect children in school and child care from disasters, according to the group Save the Children.
 
The group faulted 28 states and the District of Columbia for failing to require the emergency safety plans for schools and child care providers that were recommended by a national commission in the wake of Katrina. The lack of such plans could endanger children's lives and make it harder for them to be reunited with their families, the study said.
 
But we found it may not be as bad as it sounds.

"We have to have it in writing and submit it annually," said Denise Rogers about her disaster and evacuation plan.

Rogers owner of Happy Days School in Lakeland. She and all child care centers are required to have a plan if their licensed by the state.

"There is unfortunately a small percentage of people who choose to do this under the radar, maybe their not licensed or maybe they don't have to be," she said.

In a statement, a DCF spokesman said "the deficiencies identified in the Save the Children report have been addressed."

DCF called it a technicality in the language in their policy, but insisted all licensed providers have disaster and evacuation plans in place.

"Every workday, 68 million children are separated from their parents," Carolyn Miles, Save the Children's president and CEO, said in a statement with the group's annual disaster report card. "We owe it to these children to protect them before the next disaster strikes."
 
After Katrina exposed problems in the nation's disaster preparedness, the presidentially appointed National Commission on Children and Disaster issued final recommendations in 2010 .calling on the states to require K-12 schools to have comprehensive disaster preparedness plans and child care centers to have disaster plans for evacuation, family reunification and special needs students.
 
Idaho, Iowa, Kansas and Michigan do not require any of the four recommended plans, the study found, while D.C. and the remaining states each require one or more of them.
 
The number of states meeting all four standards has increased from four to 22 since 2008, the report said. The group praised New Jersey, Tennessee, Nebraska and Utah for taking steps over the past year to meet all four standards.
 
Save the Children said it found gaps in emergency preparedness during a year when school shootings devastated Newtown, Conn., Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc along the East Coast and tornadoes ravaged Oklahoma.
 
Miles said such disasters "should be a wake-up call, but too many states won't budge."

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