Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Ready or Not?
On this sixth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, I started thinking yet again about disaster planning. I know that the Office of Homeland Security, most businesses, and other government organizations have said that security and disaster planning is a priority, but I wonder if anything really has changed since September 11, 2001. We (the U.S.) even had another event to put into practice all that had supposedly been learned and developed – the hurricane Katrina disaster. Obviously that event was also a failure from the viewpoint of preparedness and disaster recovery. But the thing that occupies my mind most today is more personal – what would the impact be on my family should a disaster (natural or man-made) occur right now, right where we live?
I examined this question from several angles. First, if the disastrous event occurred while my children were in school, how would the schools handle things, and how would I get reunited with my children? I remember on September 11th, six years ago, that I felt compelled to leave work, and rush to the sides of my children. I knew I would just feel better if they were all with me, not spread around three different school buildings. That condition still exists today – my four children are in three different schools. How, and in what order would I go to get them, if I even could get to them? How would they all handle the waiting for me, or worse, how would the handle being injured? Could I depend on the school staff to comfort my children and make sure they were as safe as possible? Unfortunately, I think the answer to that question, at least for my three children with disabilities, is NO. In two of the three schools attended by my children, the teachers of children labeled with severe disabilities are advised not to take their kids outside for fire drills. So, how will the teachers and the students know when the loud buzzer is signaling a drill or an actual event? The cynical me thinks the disaster plan for children with disabilities is to sacrifice them in favor of getting the non-disabled to a safe place.
The second scenario I envisioned was being at home with my children when a disaster struck. I asked myself do I have a disaster plan in place, and especially one that addresses the significant needs of my children with disabilities? The answer is no, unless you count the jumbled list of thoughts in my head a disaster plan. So, while I am questioning and suggesting and demanding that my school system develop a comprehensive disaster plan, I need to do the same thing myself at home. After googling a bit, I found some good resources to help me down that path. They are listed below and I suggest everyone, especially families who have family members with special needs, take the time to review them.