Also see the AAP Hurricane Response and Recovery Web page.
Hurricanes, Tornadoes, and Storms
For information on impending hurricanes, tornadoes, and storms, see the National Weather Service National Hurricane Center and the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
Preparing for Hurricane Season
Each year, the Hurricane Season runs from June 1 through November 30. Hurricane hazards can include storm surge, heavy rainfall, flooding, high winds, and tornadoes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides details on active weather alerts and national weather forecast maps.
It is never too early to begin preparing for hurricane season. Storms affect people in all geographical areas. Prepare your office practice ahead of time by creating a written preparedness plan. Start by reviewing the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Preparedness Checklist for Pediatric Practices. Email DisasterReady@aap.org for a print copy.
Personal and family preparedness is crucial. The AAP recommends that families develop a written disaster plan and that parents discuss these plans with their children. Pediatricians can start the conversation with families and advise them on which activities are of highest priority. The AAP HealthyChildren.org Web site offers resources that clinicians can share with families such as How to Prepare for Disasters, Family Disaster Supply List, and the Preparing Your Child for Disasters Infographic. Pediatricians can also highlight materials for parents to use with children, such as Let's Get Ready! Planning Together for Emergencies, Ready Wrigley activity booklets, American Red Cross Mobile Apps, and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for Kid. For additional information, see the AAP Family Readiness Kit.
The FEMA offers recommendations on preparing for individual hazards, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides information specific to children's preparedness. Also see Americas PrepareAthon, a nationwide, community-based campaign for action to increase emergency preparedness and resilience through hazard-specific drills, group discussions, and exercises conducted at the national level every fall and spring.
Protecting Children and Youth with Special Needs
For families with children and youth who have special needs, disaster preparedness and planning for emergencies can be especially challenging. Additional steps need to be considered when preparing children and youth with special health care needs for disasters.
Keep Families Together
During or after a disaster, children receive more appropriate and more effective care when they are accompanied by a parent or other caregiver. Children should not be separated from their families or caregivers to the maximum extent possible during evacuation, transport, sheltering, or the delivery of other services. If separation is unavoidable, children should be reunited with their families or caregivers as soon as possible. In particular, children must be transported with at least one parent or caregiver during evacuation of medical facilities.
Families or caregivers may become separated from their children during a disaster, especially when evacuation is required. It is important to plan ahead of time. See the FEMA document, Post Disaster Reunification of Children – A Nationwide Approach, for more information.
Shelter and Other Temporary Care Situations
When emergency sheltering or relocating is required, children will need protection from hazards and unsafe conditions, direct supervision, and assistance with feeding and personal hygiene tasks. Consider the following suggestions for shelter and temporary care:
- Staff and volunteers who help in shelters should receive training and resources regarding the care and needs of children. Standards and Indicators for Disaster Shelter Care for Children provide guidance to shelter managers and staff who ensures children have a safe, secure environment during and after a disaster.
- When children are cared for in shelters or other temporary care situations, child-specific supplies must be provided, including safety-approved cribs, children's clothing of various sizes, formula and bottles, water, baby food, feeding utensils, etc. Refer to the National Commission on Children and Disasters 2010 Report to the President and Congress.
- Feeding plans should stress the special needs of infants and young children for breast milk, formula, and baby food. Plans must describe how clean water, bottles, and other necessary feeding equipment will be provided. See Infant Feeding in Disasters and Emergencies.
- It is important to develop potential activity plans tailored to children of different ages. Consider keeping age-appropriate toys and books on hand. For older children, a list of activity ideas, responsibilities, and job tasks may be helpful. Refer to the CDC Ready Wrigley activity book series.
To search for open shelters, the FEMA offers an option to text SHELTER and a Zip Code to 43362. For example, if you lived in Washington, DC, you would text SHELTER 20472 to 43362.
Mass sheltering facilities are not always in place in a timely way, as most of them are set-up after a disaster has occurred and FEMA representatives have determined where the needs are greatest. Some shelters have accommodations for children (and pets) while others do not. See www.ready.gov/shelter and talk to emergency management personnel in your area to learn more about available shelters.
Protect Children During Natural Disasters
Children have ongoing needs that must be addressed in a disaster.
- Children must be transported with at least one parent or caregiver.
- When children are separated from their caregivers (whether because of displacement or medical evacuation), they require priority assistance.
- Protecting children becomes even more challenging when temperatures become extreme.
- When children are exposed to situations that are traumatic they may have difficulty understanding or may develop a range of stress-related symptoms. Adults may need to take steps to promote adjustment and help children cope. Talking to children before an emergency or disaster helps them to develop strategies for coping with emergencies and everyday life.
Child care programs and schools must have plans to keep students safe, notify parents if sheltering in place or emergency evacuation is required during school hours, and reunite children with their families.
Adults involved in clean-up efforts should consider how children might be impacted. Potential issues include habitability and the contamination of food and drinking water. Schools and play areas will also need to be cleaned and disinfected before children are allowed to return. To ensure their safety and protection, children of all ages should be directly supervised during and after a disaster. In general, children should be among the last individuals to return to areas affected by flooding or other disasters. See Flood Recovery for more information.
For information about the AAP Disaster Preparedness Initiatives, please e-mail DisasterReady@aap.org