Access & Functional Needs: Children and Infants

Social Needs

Children represent nearly 25% of our population. On any given weekday, 67 million children are in schools and child care, a time when children are most vulnerable because they are away from their families.

Only a handful of States require basic school evacuation and family reunification plans. 25% of emergency medical services (EMS) agencies and 6% of hospital emergency departments have the supplies and equipment to treat children.

  • Fairfax County’s ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disaster—especially in regard to children, can neither depend on a single agency, nor be approached on a piecemeal basis.
  • Planning for a disaster is a shared responsibility, based on each team member doing what it does best and leveraging the expertise and strengths of others.

Children’s Unique Needs During Disasters

Children are not simply small adults. Children’s unique vulnerabilities in disasters must be addressed in emergency planning activities by the County as well as by the families themselves. For example:

  • Children may experience long-lasting effects such as academic failure, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, bereavement, and other behavioral problems such as delinquency and substance abuse.
  • Children are more susceptible to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats and require different medications, dosages, and delivery systems than adults.
  • During disasters, young children may not be able escape danger, identify themselves, and make critical decisions.
  • Children are dependent on adults for care, shelter, transportation, and protection from predators.
  • Children are often away from parents, in the care of schools, child care providers, Head Start or other child congregate care environments, which must be prepared to ensure children’s safety.
  • Children must be expeditiously reunified with their legal guardians if separated from them during a disaster.
  • Children in disaster shelters require age-appropriate supplies such as diapers, cribs, baby formula, and food.

Tips for Residents with Children

  • Make an emergency plan that is specific to the needs of your child and age level, including
    • an evacuation plan that includes transporting with personal medical devices
    • a communications plan that identifies multiple emergency contacts, for family members, parent or guardian workplace, caregivers, doctors, and equipment suppliers
    • identifies where to go in an emergency, both a neighborhood as well as an out of region evacuation location
    • identifies how you will get there (via car, family or friend, school bus, or public transit), and
    • who you can call for non-life threatening assistance, or call 9-1-1 for emergency help
  • Children may need a personalized emergency kit, to include items such as medications, assistive technologies, eyeglasses, hearing aids and extra batteries, or books and/or comfort items (a stuffed toy).

Related Information

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