Schools In 10 States Able To Protect Kids In Emergencies With Jack And Squat

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tornadoHow ready is your kid’s school for a natural or man-made disaster? Probably pretty okay, as long as you don’t live in Michigan. Or Iowa. Or one of nine other states that don’t meet basic emergency standards put in place by the federal government in 2010. In honor of National Emergency Preparedness Month, Save The Children has just released its 2014 Disaster Preparedness Report, and the results are a little alarming.

There are four basic emergency requirements for every state, and they aren’t what I would call “extreme.” According to the Save The Children report, states are required to have:

1. A plan for evacuating children in childcare.

2. A plan for reuniting families after a disaster.

3. A plan for children with disabilities and those with access or functional needs.

4. A multi-hazard plan for all K-12 schools.

Right. Okay. This all sounds…pretty basic. And yet, the Huffington Post reports that:

 21 of the 50 states don’t require schools and childcare providers to have basic emergency plans, and 67 percent of parents don’t know if their child’s school practices emergency drills frequently…Two states don’t meet any of the national standards, and eight states only meet one standard.So why haven’t all states met these requirements yet?

So who are the worst offenders? Save the Children scored each state based on their ability to meet the federal standards. Michigan and Iowa were given scores of zero. Zip. Nada. Hasta.

Michigan says that that’s because they put disaster plans in the hands of each county rather than the state. This doesn’t appear to working out real well. Iowa, on the other hand, has responded to the report by making September “Iowa Preparedness Month,” which I believe is celebrated underground with bottled water.

The other eight states on the list, all of which received a score of one, are Oregon, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota (oh Dakotas!), Arizona, Georgia, and Maine. How is this possible? I mean, I’m glad we’re having fire drills and such, but let’s say — oh I don’t know — a tornado hits our school. I guess as long as the tornado causes a fire, we have a plan in place.

But we can’t lay all of the blame on these states. The main reason for the lack of preparedness in some states is, of course, money. Save the Children found that of every $10 in federal emergency preparedness grants, less than 1 cent is targeted towards children’s safety, and budget cuts have taken a lot of emergency preparedness money away from states. States are also spending most of the money they do get on recovering from disasters rather than preparing for them. It’s hard to make a plan to get kids reunited with their parents after the next disaster when those parents are still homeless after the last one.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a parent with kids in school, but I would want my kids protected before any other single thing in my state. I’m more reassured by the idea of having a plan in place to prepare for an event than by knowing that there’s only enough money to help us clean up afterwards. It’s hard for people to put their money into “what could happen” rather than “what just happened.” Obviously we need both, but we also clearly need to put more value into “what if” when “what if” involves our children.

(photo: Minerva Studio / Shutterstock)