From the unprecedented and deadly tornadoes that devastated the Southeast and Heartland, to the flooding of the Mississippi River, these horrible events should serve as reminders that no place is safe from major disaster-including Connecticut. Indeed, we know from the tornado that landed in Massachusetts just last week and last winter’s storm damage to daycare centers in this state that we are all vulnerable. And no one is more vulnerable than our children.
On any given day, tens of thousands of Connecticut children under the age of five are in some type of regular child care arrangement while their parents work. Parents entrust the safety of their children to child care providers on a daily basis, and they ought to be assured that basic emergency preparedness standards are in place.
In Connecticut, we are proud of a unique disaster preparedness partnership between Save the Children’s U.S. Programs and several state agencies, and we hope these “resilient and ready” programs will be a model for the country. However, there are critical areas where Connecticut’s children remain at risk during disasters and a legislative solution is long overdue. Five years after Hurricane Katrina showed the world that there was a shocking lack of preparation for children in disasters, our annual report card on disaster preparedness shows that Connecticut still meets only one out of four minimum criteria for proper protections. The most vulnerable Connecticut residents are made more so because these simple measures are not in place.
The good news is that legislators are listening. But for real change to occur, they must take action-and quickly. The opportunity is now: A new bill (SB 983) moved through the state Senate quickly and is currently before legislators in the state House. The bill provides clear, requirements so all licensed child care facilities will have a written plan for handling emergencies, reuniting children with their families, and adequately assisting children with special needs. It will also create an explicit standard for schools that will improve their planning as well. These are common-sense solutions that are of no cost to the state.
From New Orleans to Tuscaloosa, from Haiti to Japan, Save the Children has been working at home and abroad to help children in disasters. Nothing is more important than bringing these lessons-learned back to our home state of Connecticut where so many of our staff and their children live-and we all should expect the highest standards of safety for our kids.
Disasters will continue to strike cities and towns in the months and years to come, and there is no sure way for Connecticut to avoid being affected. It is time for legislators to do their part, pass SB 983, and give children protection they need and deserve. We need all Connecticut citizens to call their State House Representative before this Wednesday and ask them to bring SB 983 up for a vote. Preparing for disaster is not something we can afford to put off another day!