Report finds many states ill-prepared to support kids in disaster

More than half of US states have failed to implement basic preparedness plans aimed at supporting children and ensuring that they will be able to reunite with their families in the event of a disaster, a new report from Save the Children says.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/File
In the Holy Cross neighborhood on the East bank, children play in the street, in New Orleans, July 21, 2010. Five years after hurricane Katrina, the area has largely been rebuilt and is prospering.

Eight years after Hurricane Katrina, most states still don't require four basic safety plans to protect children in school and child care from disasters, aid group Save the Children said in a report released Wednesday.

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.

The states were: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia.

"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."

A spokeswoman for the National Governors Association declined comment on the report, referring questions to the various states.

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