COLLEGE STATION – When disaster strikes, children are among the most vulnerable. And those who respond in time of crisis must be prepared to handle their unique needs — medical, psychological and logistical.
A new course developed by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) is designed to help first responders, emergency managers, EMS and hospital emergency room personnel plan and prepare to manage a disaster that impacts children.
The 16-hour course, Pediatric Disaster Response and Emergency Planning, is not a clinical course about treating pediatric patients, said John Rinard, with the WMD EMS program at TEEX Emergency Services Training Institute. Rather, the goal of the course is to make the emergency response community aware of the children’s unique needs and help them to prepare and plan for receiving large numbers of children following a man-made or natural disaster. This includes special emergency management considerations, such as pediatric decontamination, triage, and reunification with family, he added.
The course addresses pediatric emergency planning and medical response considerations, needs that were identified in the “2010 Report to the President and Congress” by the National Commission on Children and Disasters. The report called for the development of a national strategy for children in disasters to ensure children are protected before, during and after an emergency.
The new course uses lectures, small group exercises, case studies, simulations and a tabletop exercise. Best practices and procedures are incorporated from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the National Commission on Children and Disasters, and the National Response Framework, among others.
Course development is funded by the DHS/FEMA Homeland Security National Training Program Cooperative Agreement through TEEX’s National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center (NERRTC). Once certified by DHS/FEMA, the course will be offered across the country at no cost to qualified participants.
“The underlying issue with our population of children is that they don’t have a vote,” Rinard said. “They don’t drive research agendas, they don’t have an opportunity to express opinions on how funds are allocated, and they don’t have adequate representation in community disaster preparedness efforts. The goal of this course is to increase awareness about their needs and to ensure communities are better informed, and as a result can better prepare for the child in crisis.”