Planning for Kids: Preparedness and Pediatrics

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Teddy bear in rubble

As demonstrated in events like the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic and the Ebola response of 2014, children can be particularly vulnerable in emergency situations. Children are still developing physically, emotionally, and socially and often require different responses to events than adults. With children ages 0 to 17 representing nearly a quarter of the US population, the specific needs of children during planning for natural, accidental, and intentional disasters has become a national priority.

Collaboration is Key

People participating in tabletop exerciseTo practice preparedness among first responders, CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) joined forces to host a tabletop exercise on responding to an infectious disease threat at the federal, state, and local levels. Pediatric clinicians and public health representatives within federal region VI, (i.e. the “TALON” states of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico) worked in teams to develop responses to a simulated outbreak of pediatric smallpox. Representatives collaborated to identify potential disease contacts, develop plans for Strategic National Stockpile countermeasure distribution, and communicate effectively with other health leaders to meet pediatric care needs. Children tend to have different exposure risks, need different doses of medications, and have more diverse physical and emotional needs than adults during a public health emergency. This training exercise served as a model to increase the focus on the unique needs of children in emergency preparedness and response activities.

Bringing health professionals from different backgrounds together demonstrated how building connections during public health emergencies can improve response efforts and save lives. The day-long exercise gave participants the opportunity to see different problem-solving skills and unique viewpoints that other responders brought to the scenario.

One participant in the exercise, Curtis Knoles, MD, FAAP, Steps to protect your child during emergencies in the school daycommented, “The exercise gave a good understanding of next steps we need to take; identify all the players involved with the pediatrics community and get them tied into the state department of health.”

Practice like the Pros at Home

While the tabletop exercise focused on emergency planning and response on a broad level, there are many ways you can practice keeping your children safe during an emergency, too. Check out some of the resources below for resources and ideas on how you can keep your family prepared!

  1. Make creating your emergency kit fun—let your kids pick out some snacks and games to include! Be sure to have a kit at home and in the car!
  2. Get your kids involved with emergency preparedness with Ready Wrigley games, coloring pages, and checklists
  3. Make and practice plans for where to go and how to communicate in case of an emergency
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5 comments on “Planning for Kids: Preparedness and Pediatrics”

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    Wonderful useful info! My husband is a Chaplain and has seen many kids traumatized from disasters. Dealing with them and their issues needs more conversation and training for all involved. Good job!

    It’s very helpful to be aware of any possible preparation plan for children in such unpredictable situation. I agree that every family should have an emergency kit. As I know, the “Survival Tabs” can be a good choice to be included in the emergency kit since it marketed as “the best possible nutrition in the smallest possible volume” which has the shelf life up to 10 years. Thus, I think people would be benefit from searching more about those type of food.

    Children are especially vulnerable for a number of reasons. One reason is that their immune system is still developing which can produce a more pronounced reaction to infection than normal. In addition, particularly with younger children, they handle many objects and touch various surfaces then place their hands in their mouth without regard or knowledge of any germs that they may be taking in. Some things that nurses can do to help prevent these outbreaks are by increasing our hand hygiene practices, immediate notification and training of caregivers, and utilizing prophylactic medications.

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Page last reviewed: March 9, 2016
Page last updated: March 9, 2016