Illinois unimpressive in natural disaster child preparedness report


A new report showed Illinois does not meet basic standards when it comes to children's safety during natural disasters. That's according to the latest "Save the Children" study.

According to this report the state does not have plans for evacuation, family-child reunification and children with special needs. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency said in a statement that "Child safety is a top priority for Gov. Quinn." But while it may be a priority, according to this new study, the state still has some work to do to make sure children are safe during times of disaster.

"I was a little surprised on that study," said Carl Baker Executive Director of the American Red Cross Mid-Illinois Chapter. "I don't think there would be a lack of anything just because it's not checked off on that form."

Illinois misses the mark on three out of four basic standards. The local American Red Cross, though, said it's ready to go.

"Are we prepared?" Baker asked. "The Red Cross is prepared on a given notice to handle any disaster."

Baker said that he has trailers packed to set up shelter whenever they need to.

"We've got our plan in place and are ready to go," he said.

While it is crucial for the state to meet basic safety standards, emergency officials added that it's equally important for families to have their own disaster kit ready with everything from toiletries to water that can keep them safe for up to three days. But having their own plan doesn't mean they're alone.

"IEMA is the lead on all disasters," Baker said.

A statement from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency said that starting next year a new statewide initiative will encourage elementary and secondary schools to meet specific disaster-plan criteria.

"We can always do a better job," Baker said. "We always exercise. We train and we prepare. Will we be 100 percent because every disaster is different? I'd like to say that we are prepared."

The statement from IEMA also pointed out that recently the Governor signed into law two initiatives. The first initiative requires schools to conduct annual safety drills with local law enforcement. The second initiative includes the creation of a school security and standards task force that will study the security of schools in Illinois.

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