Children ‘Left Out’ of Disaster Planning – Report
Tuesday, 29th October 2013 at 9:02 am
More planning goes into managing the needs of animals than children during disasters and emergencies, a report by Save the Children has found.
The report, Don’t leave me alone: Protecting Children in Australian Disasters and Emergencies, shines a spotlight on the need for children to be incorporated across all emergency management plans at all levels of government ahead of the upcoming emergency season.
“We were shocked to find that while there is little in emergency management plans that provide any detail on how to manage the needs of children in emergencies there is much more planning when it comes to managing the needs of animals, especially when many of the plans for animals were quite detailed breaking it down into pets, livestock and wildlife,” Save the Children CEO Paul Ronalds said.
“Children were often mentioned only briefly and with little detail.”
Only 239 local governments out of 570 made their emergency management plans available online, the report revealed.
And of those, 15 per cent did not mention children, infants or young people while a majority of others only made cursory mentions. However, 97 per cent planned for animals.
“Children are extremely vulnerable in emergencies. They’re more susceptible to heat and infectious diseases like influenza, and more sensitive to the effects of smoke, chemicals and biological emergencies. They’re also more easily swept away in flood waters,” Ronalds said.
“Yet there is no clear relationship between local emergency management plans and those of preschools, schools and childcare centres. This was evident in the recent NSW bushfires when children were evacuated from schools and pre-schools leaving some parents unsure of their whereabouts and unable to collect them from evacuation points.
“Also concerning is the lack of a standard code of conduct for emergency management staff who will work with children in the immediate aftermath of disasters.
“This gap in government planning should be addressed, especially given the number of large-scale emergencies in Australia in the last five years and predictions of a long bushfire season ahead. Our children deserve better than this.”
The report finds:
No local area planning identified that focused on the most vulnerable children – those who are unaccompanied;
No standard code of conduct for emergency management staff regarding working with children;
Inconsistent procedures across Australia to undertake Working with Children Checks for staff and volunteers who work with children in emergencies;
No clear links between local emergency management plans to the emergency plans of preschools, schools and child care centres;
Less than half of the local government websites in Australia make their emergency management plan available on their website.
The report’s key recommendations included:
Specific planning for children is urgently incorporated into all emergency management plans at all levels of government;
Emergency planning clearly allocates responsibility for the needs of children to specific roles or agencies;
Emergency management plans account for unaccompanied children, family reunification, working with children checks, child friendly spaces and evacuation centre planning;
Children be involved in the planning process, and plans have clear links with school, kindergarten and child care centres;
All local emergency management plans should be available for community members to access on local government websites.