Sadly, we are reminded daily about how vulnerable we are to natural disasters and unnatural ones, as headlines about floods and shootings seem to jump out at us from our daily news feeds with increasing regularity. And more often then not, we also have personal experiences to share too. For me over the last 12 months, both through reports from family and friends living in Calgary, Alberta, Boulder, Colorado and Newton, Connecticut, and directly as a resident of New Jersey, I have personally seen and heard many, many stories about the devastating impacts that extreme weather and unnatural disasters can bring to communities.
As extreme weather becomes the “norm” and sadly in the US, as gun violence becomes all too commonplace, each of us needs to make sure we have disaster preparedness plans in place, and that our children and those who care for them know what to do if disaster strikes. Part of being resilient in the face of disaster is to prepare and have a plan. Depending on where you live, this plan may look and feel differently then it does elsewhere, as each plan needs to be location and site specific. We also need to create our own family plans, and we need to look to our schools, places of business, communities and states to be prepared and have plans in place as well.In early September, Save the Children released a timely report “Get Ready Get Safe.” This is the 6th year for this important report, which provides a state-by-state assessment of US preparations and safety standards for children in childcare facilities and schools. Sadly, 28 states FAIL to meet basic emergency planning standards for children. Save the Children’s disaster report card tracks progress on four critical standards: All child care centers must have: 1) an evacuation plan, 2) a family reunification plan, and 3) a plan for children with special needs, and 4) States must require that all schools have disaster plans that account for multiple types of hazards.
Colorado which is now reeling from deadly flooding that continues to wreak havoc on that state and which was the location of a mass shooting in 2012 scores unsatisfactory on 2 of 4 categories on the Save the Children State 2013 scorecard.I was pleased to see that for the first time, my state of New Jersey gets a positive check mark in all 4 areas!
“The devastation left by Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac, the Oklahoma tornadoes and the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School should be a wake-up call, but too many states won’t budge. It’s like they’re stuck in a pre-Katrina world where the gaps in protecting children weren’t so clear,” said Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children.
“Since we released our last report card, our nation has experienced the second costliest disaster year on record and hundreds of thousands of children have faced enormous risks. They’ve lost their homes, schools, child care centers and even their lives,” Miles said.
As we well know at ClimateMama, climate change brings all forms of extreme weather to the forefront and can make regular weather “worse.” Our children aren’t always with us during the day when we are at work, or when they are at school or at an after school activity. It’s important that at a minimum, all states meet these targets set by Save the Children. How does your state score? Let Save the Children help you send a letter your Governor to remind them to do more, or to say thanks for what is already being done! The Save the Children Get Ready Get Safe initiative is so very, very important because as we all know too well, you NEVER can be too prepared for a disaster.
Speaking from personal experience, in both 2011 and 2012 children in my community and in neighboring towns didn’t get to celebrate Halloween due to extreme weather events. It was so bad both years that the Governor issued states of emergency and told parents not to take children out on the streets for Halloween as neighborhoods were “unsafe” because of downed power lines and fallen tree limbs. This message, to stay off the streets, was reinforced by school districts and local police. Already, many children in my community are asking their parents if there will be a Halloween this year. We hope so. But living with extreme weather events is a reality that can happen at any time.Not only do we need to be prepared for disasters, which Save the Children helps us do, we also need to work on mitigating the causes of these disasters so that they don’t keep getting worse and worse. When it comes to extreme weather and climate change, we can do this by reducing human caused greenhouse gases, the primary cause of climate change. In order to do this though at the order of magnitude and with the speed that is required, we also need the support and commitment of our Governors, our local and our national politicians. So, when you do reach out to them, remind them that climate change is on the top of your list of what needs to be addressed as we prepare for the realities we must face that climate change is now regularly bringing our way. Talk to the kids in your life too. Make sure you have your own family disaster plan as well as your “plan for your future” which should look at how we each can try to heal our planet and stop creating the conditions that are making our planet sick. We need to help contain and reduce the fever that is causing droughts and stop the tears that are causing floods…We all can make a difference but we need to start today!
I wrote this post as part of The Global Team of 200, a highly specialized group of members of Mom Bloggers for Social Good that concentrates on issues involving women and girls, children, world hunger and maternal health.
Our Motto: Individually we are all-powerful. Together we can change the world. We believe in the power of collective action to help others and believe in ourselves to make this world a better place for our children and the world’s children.