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Many Parents Uninformed About School Disaster Plans, Poll Finds

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This is a cross post from Rules for Engagement.

Seventy percent of parents responding to a recent poll said they were at least somewhat concerned "about the risk their child faces from school shootings," and 35 percent were "very or extremely concerned," the poll found.

The online survey of 1,012 U.S. parents of children under the age of 18 who are enrolled in daycare, preschool, or school was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Save the Children in July. The results formed the basis of Save the Children's annual disaster preparedness report card, which was released today.

disasterfears.JPGIn the survey, 66 percent of respondents said they were at least somewhat concerned about the risk their child faces from natural disasters, and 55 percent said they were at least somewhat concerned about the risk their child faces from terrorism.

Unprepared Parents

But, while parents fear the effects of disasters at school, many of them are uninformed about schools' preparedness efforts, the report card says.

The average parent responding to the survey spent five hours organizing back-to-school supplies this summer, but just one hour on family-emergency planning, the report says. 

"This report is a wake-up call," Kathy Spangler, Save the Children's vice president of U.S. programs, said in a news release. "American parents say they're concerned about risks their children face from school shootings and natural disaster. Yet, our poll also shows most parents know little about emergency plans at their child's school or child care--and that they're failing to take basic actions to protect kids at home."

Among the findings from the survey:

  • Sixty-three percent of respondents said they are not very familiar with emergency plans at their child's school or child care. 
  • Sixty-seven percent don't know if emergency drills are held frequently, or at least every two months. 
  • Forty-two percent wouldn't know where to reunite with children if they were evacuated from school or child care.  
  • Forty-six percent of respondents haven't given schools or child-care providers an out-of-town emergency contact.

Disaster Plans Lacking

The report card says that 21 states and the District of Columbia "still lack basic emergency plan requirements for schools and child care centers." In the states that don't meet requirements, 69 percent of respondents "mistakenly assume that minimum standards are in place," the report says. 

What are those requirements? According to a release:

"Since 2008, Save the Children has tracked states annually on emergency planning for schools and child care.   The disaster report's four minimum standards are based on recommendations of the National Commission on Children in Disasters, which was formed after Hurricane Katrina exposed deep weaknesses in the nation's capacity to protect children from disaster. 

The standards are that states require: 1) all K-12 schools have written, multi-hazard emergency plans and all child care providers to have:  2) evacuation and relocation plans, 3) family-child reunification plans and 4) a plan for children with special needs.

In 2008, only four states met all standards.  The number of passing states has now reached 29, with a record seven states moving to meet all four standards in the past year.  They are Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Texas.  Kansas also moved to meet the child care standards, but still lacks the school standard.  Idaho now meets the school standard, but still lacks the child care standards."

 Check out how many requirements your state met at this link.

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