National Preparedness Month 2020

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Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education (CSPECE) Disaster Recovery Supplement

Protecting our children where they learn and play during disaster recovery

A public health emergency—such as a wildfire, hurricane, or other natural disaster—can happen anywhere and at any time. These disasters disrupt communities. Homes, businesses, childcare facilities, early childhood programs, schools, and other critical buildings can be damaged or destroyed. After the initial disaster response ends, communities begin the long process of disaster recovery. The buildings are rebuilt, the infrastructure is repaired, and there is the appearance of recovery. However, during this process, recovery guidance is often overlooked, and places that were once environmentally safe may no longer be safe, particularly for children.

Children are more vulnerable to environmental hazards because of their physical, developmental, and behavioral differences from adults. Environmental exposures can trigger diseases and disrupt children’s development, learning, and behavior. For example, younger children exhibit behaviors, such as placing objects in their mouths, that put them at risk for ingesting potential environmental contaminants.

Young children enjoying in the playroom

ATSDR recognizes the importance of protecting children from harmful exposures during disaster recovery. We also understand that returning to pre-disaster routines, such as attending school or childcare, is vital for community members’ sense of wellbeing and disaster resiliency.

Our CSPECE Disaster Recovery Supplement helps public and environmental health professionals learn how to reduce children’s environmental exposures where they learn and play. Identifying potential hazards can help establish ways to reduce risk and help community members, particularly children, feel secure as they recover and return to pre-disaster routines.

The Disaster Recovery Supplement builds on concepts from ATSDR’s Choose Safe Places for Early Care and Education (CSPECE) guidance manual. We expanded the key elements to additional places (e.g., home-based childcare, camps) and additional environmental hazards unique to disasters. The supplement

  • defines additional places children spend time, such as home-based early care and education programs, group homes, and recreational facilities,
  • describes how the CSPECE elements can be applied to other places where children spend time,
  • provides information about potential environmental hazards after a disaster and effects on places where children spend time, and
  • compiles resources readily available from numerous agencies for each environmental hazard or topic.

To learn more, visit: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/safeplacesforece/docs/disaster_recovery_supplement-508.pdf

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Page last reviewed: September 1, 2020
Page last updated: September 1, 2020