Report: Alabama leads in protecting children in disasters

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Almost five years after Hurricane Katrina, a new report reveals that Alabama meets four key standards identified by Save the Children for protecting children during disasters. Ninety percent of U.S. children live in an area at risk of natural disaster, and terrorists can strike anywhere. Unlike Alabama, 38 states and the District of Columbia did not meet all four basic standards.

The report is the second disaster preparedness report released by Save the Children's U.S. Programs. Alabama was just one of twelve states to have the four protections in place.

Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina demonstrated what can happen when children are not accounted for in disaster planning:

  • 5,192 children were reported missing after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the last child was not found until six months later.
  • About 50,000 Louisiana and Mississippi children did not attend school in the 2005-2006 school year, and approximately 15,000 did not attend in the 2006-2007 school year.
  • More than a third of Louisiana children experience clinically-diagnosed depression, anxiety, or behavior disorder after the storm.

"Five years after Hurricane Katrina, it is unacceptable for states to ignore these low-cost and common-sense safeguards for kids," said Mark Shriver, Save the Children U.S. Programs Senior Vice President. "Alabama is a national leader in protecting the most vulnerable Alabamans in the most vulnerable settings.  I hope other states will follow Alabama's example."

Commissioned by Save the Children and conducted by Brown Buckley Tucker, the report reviewed four key standards identified by Save the Children, including plans for evacuation, reunification with families and evacuation for special needs kids at child care facilities, as well as evacuation plans at schools.

Save the Children urges the adoption of all four standards by states as well as federal passage of the Child Safety, Care, and Education Continuity Act of 2010 (H.R. 5240/S. 2898), which would require states to adhere to many of the same standards.  Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) is the sponsor of the House legislation, and Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) are the sponsors of the Senate measure.