COLLEGE STATION – Children in a crisis: Who can forget the faces of children in the news after a disaster? Yet, due to a variety of reasons, communities are often ill prepared to handle the unique needs of children impacted by disasters, whether a school shooting, a tornado or other emergency.
That’s where a new course offered by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) can help. Pediatric Disaster Response and Emergency Preparedness is not about treating pediatric patients; instead, it is designed to identify gaps, integrate efforts and enhance the ability of the community to plan for and more effectively manage the effects of a disaster on children, which on average, make up 24% of the population of any U.S. community.
The goal of the 16-hour course is to make first responders, school administrators, emergency managers, EMS and hospital emergency room personnel aware of the children’s unique needs and help communities prepare and plan to meet those needs following a man-made or natural disaster, said John Rinard with the WMD-EMS program at TEEX Emergency Services Training Institute. This includes special emergency management considerations, such as pediatric decontamination, triage, and reunification with family, he added.
Fifty-three people recently attended two classes held in Rochester and Cheektawaga, NY, where the course was well-received. “Finally, a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, healthcare community-focused emergency preparedness course dedicated to the pediatric population,” said Anne M. D’Angelo, Program Director for Healthcare Emergency Preparedness, University of Rochester Medical Center. “This course has certainly filled a training gap we’ve identified in our region. I found the case studies and best practices shared from hospitals and community partners around the country to be extremely beneficial. We all walked away with a lot of pediatric planning areas we need to work on and the resources to assist in the process. Thank you, TEEX!”
“I thought the course was very well done,” added Lori Fox, Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist, University of Rochester Medical Center. “Some of it related more to community-based planners, but is still helpful information for us to think about/be aware of. I was also able to get some good networking information. It was definitely worth the time.”
The course was developed through the efforts of an interdisciplinary committee representing a variety of emergency management, pediatric groups and stakeholders from professional associations. It was recently certified by the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA and is now being scheduled and delivered across the nation at no cost to qualified participants. The training is funded by the DHS/FEMA Homeland Security National Training Program Cooperative Agreement through TEEX’s National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center.
“This class will make a difference in community preparedness efforts with respect to protecting children around the country and preparing communities to address issues often overlooked,” Rinard said.
Designed around many of the core areas identified in a 2010 report by the National Commission on Children and Disasters, the course provides participants with suggestions designed to address the development of a local strategy for children in disasters. This would parallel the development of a national strategy called for by the National Commission on Children in Disasters in an effort to ensure children are protected before, during and after an emergency.
The new course uses lectures, small group exercises, case studies, vignettes and a tabletop exercise. Best practices and procedures are incorporated from a variety of sources, including but not limited to, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the National Commission on Children and Disasters, and the National Response Framework.