Children & Disasters

For more than two decades, NCDP has relentlessly focused policymakers’ attention on the unique needs of children during and after disasters and the ongoing inadequacies of public health, emergency management, and educational systems when it comes to protecting kids. Immediately after the terror attacks of 9/11 2001, NCDP Director Irwin Redlener, MD developed one of the nation’s first centers focused on pediatric disaster preparedness. Recently, Dr. Redlener served as a Congressionally-appointed member of the National Commission on Children and Disasters. The panel’s report is the new gold standard on this topic for policymakers and planners.

Terri Dorsey, 10, and Imari Clark, 1, reacts after as a family member is treated for heat exhaustion where they have been waiting for days to be evacuated from the convention center in New Orleans, La., Friday, Sept. 2, 2005. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)NCDP’s concern for children in disasters has resulted in a series of three national expert conferences on “Pediatric Emergency Preparedness for Natural Disasters, Terrorism, and Public Health Emergencies” and a multi-faceted awareness campaign about children’s risks of being targets of terrorism. Since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita lashed the U.S. Gulf Coast, NCDP has consistently reported on the health status of affected children and highlighted the unfinished business of their recovery. After the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, NCDP documented and publicized the physical and mental health impacts of the spill on the regions’ children.

Public opinion and messaging is a critical area of study for the Center. NCDP’s ongoing series of national polls on Americans’ preparedness has revealed parents’ unfamiliarity with local child protection procedures and major discrepancies between authorities’ planning assumptions and what parents actually do. At times of national trauma such as 9/11 and in calmer times alike, NCDP op-eds and media consultations have urged parents, health service providers and governmental response organizations to attend to the mental health needs of children along with their physical well-being.

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