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A 2011 Information Memorandum (IM) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, entitled “Guidance to assist Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Lead Agencies in developing, exercising, and maintaining written child care emergency preparedness and response plans pursuant to submission of the CCDF Plan” spells out ways that state agencies can be involved in disaster planning. While addressed to Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) lead agencies, the IM includes recommendations that are relevant to federal home visiting recipients. https://go.edc.org/uzna
- Coordination with public health agencies
- Coordination with voluntary organizations that provide support for child care and provision of temporary child care or respite services
- Coordination with local business owners and non-profit organizations to donate supplies
- Coordination with social service agencies (e.g., child welfare, family courts) that also serve families with young children
- Coordination across state jurisdictional lines, particularly in border states which may serve families that must be evacuated from disaster areas
- Engage in collaborative planning with other organizations in the community. These organizations include emergency management and emergency personnel agencies, public health agencies, and other volunteer agencies.
- Plan for continuity of operations in case of an emergency. Establish a communication plan for how to maintain contact with all employees as well as plans to protect vital records including insurance policies, rental agreements, building plans, bank account records, service agreements, and other documents needed to operate the organization. Develop an information technology plan to back up and retrieve critical data.
- Develop policies that support staff needs to deal with their own family emergencies even as they are involved in response efforts. Recognize that staff may be dealing with their own and their family’s needs, including damage to or the possible loss of their homes and belongings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide tips for first responders that may be helpful to share with home visitors and support staff impacted by a large scale community disaster.
- Make a plan. The pamphlet Taking Care of Our Family: Preparing for Emergencies and Disasters, developed by the Administration for Children and Families Office of Human Services Emergency Preparedness & Response, provides a format for recording emergency contact information. It lists important documents to copy, and what to include in emergency kits. https://go.edc.org/d7ef.
- Prepare for the natural disasters most likely to occur in their community. Coastal areas face hurricane season from June through November while tornadoes can occur at any time of year and in any state although they are most common in the Central Plains and southeastern states. Some emergencies, such as hurricanes, allow families to have some time to prepare while others such as earthquakes may not allow time for families to gather even basic necessities. Different types of disasters require different safe spots in a home. According to the CDC’s resource Emergency Preparedness and You, during an earthquake the best thing to do is to drop, cover, and hold on under a sturdy desk or table. However, during a tornado, it is important to seek shelter in a lower level room without windows. https://go.edc.org/xpyc.
- Know where to get up to date emergency information. This Infographicfrom the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows the six ways to get warnings about an emergency event. Families should have a battery powered or solar radio available in case of a power outage and follow any local evacuation instructions.
- Consider how they will communicate and find each other in an emergency. Compile a list of emergency contact numbers, including police, fire department, poison control, and a local hospital as well as family and friends. Give each family member including older children a contact card. Remember that local phones and social media may be flooded by the sheer number of people trying to use them. The CDC recommends texting as the best option and suggests that families make sure that all family members other than young children know how to text. Families should also have a plan for where they will meet if they get separated. In fact, the CDC recommends three meeting locations – one in the neighborhood, one just outside the neighborhood, and the third out of town. https://go.edc.org/8n88.
- Gather an emergency supply kit. In addition to the list included in the ACF pamphlet described above, the CDC (https://go.edc.org/wu70), the AAP (https://go.edc.org/9nc2) and FEMA (https://go.edc.org/4ttt) have comprehensive lists of emergency supplies. Essential supplies include a three-day supply of water, nonperishable food, and a manual can opener, as well as medications and a list of prescriptions, cash, maps of the area, a cell phone charger, extra batteries and a toothbrush. Copies of important documents such as birth certificates, social security cards, health records and health insurance information should be stored with the to-go kit. If there is advance notice of an emergency, it’s good to have a full tank of gas.
- Practice fire safety. Install smoke alarms and test them monthly. Change the batteries twice a year. Just as schools and child care centers have emergency drills, families can practice their family escape plan with their children. Firefacts.org suggests ten steps to a fire safe home. https://go.edc.org/t2u2
- Keep older children in the loop. Involve them in putting together your emergency supply kit. Even preschool children can be taught how to dial 911. Have them memorize at least one emergency contact number. Share age-appropriate resources such as FEMA’s Ready.gov for Kids/Family Communication Plan (https://go.edc.org/ub01). Sesame Workshop has a Let’s Get Ready Toolkit that includes YouTube videos stressing simple but important things for young children such as learning their first and last names. https://go.edc.org/xekg.