Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Region Ahead in Planning for Kids' Safety; Report Critical of Efforts Nationally

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Region Ahead in Planning for Kids' Safety; Report Critical of Efforts Nationally

Article excerpt

Byline: Laura Diamond, Times-Union staff writer

As parents around the country learned that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center, many immediately thought of their children.

They rushed to schools and day-care centers. They needed to hold their children and know they were safe.

Now, two years later, there is some concern about whether the government is thinking enough about its youngest citizens.

The National Advisory Committee on Children and Terrorism released a report in June saying federal and state governments have overlooked children's needs as they've drafted plans to prepare for future attacks.

The report noted that most emergency responders had little training or experience in treating children. The group recommended revising federal terror-response plans to include schools, child-care centers and other places with children.

The attention to children is crucial. During the work week, about one-fifth of the country's population is attending either school or a child-care facility.

Educators and emergency responders in Northeast Florida say they have taken steps to keep children safe and protected. Child-care centers and schools have plans dealing with everything from inclement weather to campus intruders to terrorism. Most of the plans pre-date the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Everybody is thinking about what needs to be done to keep children safe," said Holly Clark, family services counselor for the state Department of Children and Families, which oversees licensing child-care centers.

Last year, the department purchased videos and books for each child-care facility to help prepare them for possible attacks, Clark said. The department also bought new first-aid kits and pamphlets advising child-care workers about how to respond to children's needs in a crisis.

The state already requires each facility to write a disaster plan. This includes having an evacuation plan and posting emergency contact numbers either on-site, on the Internet or in notes home to parents, Clark said. …

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