Rich Cooper

Aug 5, 2009

Yesterday the US
Senate’s Ad hoc Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery held a hearing on
“Focusing on Children in Disasters: Evacuation Planning and Mental
Health Recovery.”

With notable witnesses including FEMA Administrator, Craig Fugate and
Mark Shriver of Save the Children, the hearing examined one of the most
vulnerable populations in emergencies – children.

Needless to
say from my experiences with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I can sadly
say I witnessed firsthand the shortcomings in evacuations, logistics
and planning with children and many other vulnerable populations.  As
sobering as those experiences were, they were only equaled in the
frustrations that I and many others have had in drawing focused
attention to the needs of the most vulnerable of our population to
disaster planning and preparedness.

That’s why I’ve been
heartened by Craig Fugate’s leadership at FEMA.  From his confirmation
hearing in the spring; his meetings with stakeholder groups and various
interviews, he’s made it a point to recognize that our disaster
planning and preparedness needs to bigger and broader and take into
consideration some things that have often been overlooked in the past. 
Notable in those shortcomings is how we deal with children and the

His candor in yesterday’s hearing about how vulnerable
populations have been “an afterthought” in terms of emergency planning
and resources is not a shock to those who been advocates of those who
have special needs. Many of these people have firsthand experience in
being overlooked and ignored.  

The recently issued report by ANSI’s Homeland Security Standards Panel, “Emergency Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities and Special Needs,” as well as Save the Children’s, “Disaster Decade Report” have put the stark and sobering facts about these conditions squarely on the American table to face up to.

who dealt with many of these issues firsthand while leading the State
of Florida’s emergency management efforts has decided he’s seen enough
and offered words that were music to my ears and I’m sure to many

write plans that actually reflect the communities we live in….  They
have children. They have people with disabilities. They have frail

In other words, they are America.  No
community is immune from disasters or having vulnerable people who live
in it.  As such making them part of the planning, preparedness and
partnership process should seem to be a no-brainer but it has been in
the past.  Fugate’s words bode well for the future where action and
results are the ultimate metrics.

We’ve got a lot of work to do
in these and other areas and it appears Craig Fugate has opened some
seats at his table to begin the process.  Thank you, Mr.
Administrator.  We’ve got a lot of work to do.

This piece was originally posted on Security Debrief.


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