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States Still Fall Short on Schools' Disaster Preparedness, Says Report

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Guest post by Alyssa Morones

Despite the tragedies of the last school year in Newtown, Conn., and Moore, Okla., more than half of states are lacking when it comes to their policies and plans for school emergency preparedness, according to Save the Children's 2013 National Report Card on Protecting Children in Disasters.

The report judged states' school preparedness based on four minimum standards:

• A plan for evacuating children in child care;
• A plan for reuniting families after a disaster;
• A plan for children with disabilities and those with access and functional needs;
• And a plan for multiple types of hazards for K-12 schools.

According to the report, 28 states and the District of Columbia fail to meet minimum standards set by the National Commission on Children and Disaster in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Seventeen states lack a child-care evacuation plan requirement, and 16 don't require providers to have a family-reunification plan.

Six states and the District of Columbia were found to fall short of the K-12 school multi-hazard plan standard—one that the report qualified as "extremely basic."

The report includes a full list of how each state measures up against the set standards.

Robbie and Alissa Parker, who lost their daughter in Newtown's Sandy Hook shooting, lent their voices to the report as advocates for school preparedness. In a video that they recorded in conjunction with the report, the two parents encourage others to take action to help close the gaps in school preparedness.

Released today, the report has already drawn a response from the American Federation of Teachers, which is distributing a safe-school environment checklist to its members:

"A safe, secure, and welcoming environment at every child-care center and public school is as important as a strong academic program. After Hurricane Katrina, the Newtown, Conn., shootings and the Oklahoma tornado, which took so many innocent children's lives, what more do we need to do for schools to make disaster preparedness a priority?"

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