Study Finds Twenty-One States Lack School Emergency Plans

Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia do not meet emergency planning requirements for schools and childcare providers, a report from Save the Children finds.

The 2014 Disaster Report Card (HTML) found that only twenty-nine states met minimum standards drawn from recommendations of the National Commission on Children in Disasters, which was established after Hurricane Katrina exposed deep weaknesses in the nation's capacity to protect children from disasters. The report card tracks four standards based on the commission's recommendations: that states require all childcare providers to have evacuation and relocation plans, family-child reunification plans, and a plan for children with special needs, and that all K-12 schools have a written multi-hazard emergency plan. The report includes an interactive map showing which standards states meet or fail to meet.

An online survey of more than a thousand parents nationwide found that 69 percent mistakenly assumed protections were in place, and that even in states that do require emergency plans, 42 percent of the parents surveyed did not know where to meet up with their child if their school or childcare center were to be evacuated. In addition, 40 percent of parents said they did not have an emergency plan for their family, while 49 percent did not feel very prepared to protect their children from disasters. Even among parents who have a plan, 59 percent said they did not know where to seek shelter locally.

"We've seen some states make progress in emergency preparedness, but it's not nearly enough," said Kathy Spangler, vice president of U.S. programs at Save the Children. "We know that children are the most vulnerable during disasters. So it is essential that parents step up and make sure any gaps in preparedness are filled. For the most part, that's not happening."

"21 States Lack Plans to Protect Children — and Parents Are Unaware." Save the Children Press Release 09/03/2014.