One Year After Katrina
AAP urges families to create emergency disaster plans.
-- American Academy of Pediatrics
On the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is encouraging families, pediatricians and communities to prepare for potential natural and other disasters to minimize the physical and emotional toll on children.
Children are especially vulnerable during and after disasters. The AAP recommends that parents discuss possible disaster plans with their children, so the children will know what to do in hazardous situations.
Parents can create a family disaster plan by taking these simple steps.
- Talk with your children about the dangers of disasters that are common to in your area and how to prepare for each type. Make sure they know where to go in your home and school to stay safe during an earthquake, tornado, hurricane or other disaster.
- Teach your child how to recognize danger signals. Ensure your child knows what smoke detectors, fire alarms and local community warning systems (horns and sirens) sound like and what to do when they hear them.
- Explain to children how and when to call for help. Keep emergency phone numbers where family members can find them.
- Pick an out-of-state family contact person who family members can "check-in" with if you are separated during an emergency. For older children, help them to memorize the person's name and phone number, or give them a copy of the emergency list.
- Agree on a meeting place away from your home (a neighbor or relative's house or even a street corner) where you would get together if you were separated in an emergency. Give each family member an emergency list with the name, address and phone number of the meeting place.
- Put together a disaster supplies kit
for your family.
- Practice your family disaster plan every six months, so everyone will remember what to do in an emergency.
- Include your pet in your family disaster plan. In an emergency, shelters can't take pets, so plan what to do in case you have to evacuate. Ask your humane society if there is an animal shelter near you. Prepare a list of kennels and veterinarians who could shelter your pet in an emergency.
"It is imperative to consider both the physical and emotional needs of children during and after a disaster," says AAP President Eileen M. Ouellette, MD, JD, FAAP. "The thousands of children still displaced by Katrina, and still grieving the loss of their homes and loved ones, need continued care and support."
Because of children's developmental limitations, they are often unable to express their needs directly or clearly. They rely on adults to help them identify and express their concerns, to help them access supportive services, to model appropriate coping behaviors, and to provide a supportive environment so they can begin to understand and adjust to the crisis.
The AAP urges parents and caregivers to remember that if children receive appropriate support, they may emerge from a crisis more capable and resilient. Without such support, children are more likely to have difficulty adjusting, and may be at risk for long-term problems.
More information can be found on the AAP
website and on the following links:
Raising A Mensch Section
Editor: Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston parenting @ pjvoice.com,
Dr. Flaura Koplin Winston is a practicing pediatrician, professor of
pediatrics and Scientific Director of the Center for Injury Research
and Prevention at the Children's
Hospital of Philadelphia. She welcomes your comments, questions,
contributions and suggestions for future columns.