Current emergency management practice in Australia identifies children as part of vulnerable populations within communities. This is despite increasing evidence in the literature that identifies children as uniquely vulnerable in emergencies and requiring targeted planning in all areas of emergency management.
Safeguarding children should be a priority of all staff and volunteers who have emergency management roles and this should be clearly articulated in all emergency management plans as a first step in protecting children in disasters.
To determine the current level of planning regarding the needs of children in Australia, local government, unincorporated areas and alpine authority websites were accessed during March and April 2013. The websites were searched to access local emergency management plans. 570 websites were accessed and 239 plans were available to view. The plans were then analysed to determine what planning was undertaken that specifically related to children.
An important child safeguarding measure is well understood and documented procedures for managing the unique needs of this vulnerable population. Due to their various needs which will depend on their developmental stage, children require special protection physically and emotionally when exposed to emergency events. Recent experience has shown that when communities and families are impacted by significant emergencies, parents and primary carers may be overwhelmed and not able to provide sufficient support to their children. This situation can further increase the vulnerability of children.
Ms Susan Davie, Senior Advisor – Australian Emergencies, Save the Children will discuss how several areas have been identified in this issue: they provide a framework to address this gap in planning and fall under the headings:
- plan development,
- plan content,
- plan communication and
- plan monitoring and implementation.
There are a number of key activities, many of them straight forward and simple that can be undertaken by emergency management practitioners in these four key areas to progress planning that will safeguard children when emergencies and disasters occur.
To register for the Australian and New Zealand Disaster & Emergency Management Conference, visit the website: http://anzdmc.com.au