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Mark Shriver

Mark Shriver

Posted: October 26, 2010 02:59 PM

In the month before Election Day, Americans are understandably fatigued and disheartened by a daily onslaught of polls that reveal the public's unrelenting anger and frustration. They're bombarded, as well, by the politicians who either exploit or ignore this national mood.

Ironically and tragically, a new poll was released this week that reveals Americans united and concerned on an issue about which most politicians are surprisingly detached.

The survey from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Health Fund finds that an overwhelming majority of Americans support better protections for children when disaster strikes.

  • Nearly three quarters of Americans believe that when tough medical triage choices have to be made, children should be first in line, ahead of adults.
  • More than 90 percent said that kids should have access to the same medical treatments as adults if a terror attack strikes.

The fact that Americans want a priority placed on kids' needs during disasters isn't surprising but the reason that the poll was commissioned in the first place is alarming. Simply put, our national and state leaders aren't acting to ensure the phenomenally common-sense principle of protecting children during a natural disaster or terror attack.

Indeed, the poll was conducted in the wake of a landmark report by the National Commission on Children and Disasters, which I am honored to chair and whose membership includes Children's Health Fund President Irwin Redlener M.D.

The Commission's report, which was delivered to President Obama and Congress earlier this month, found that only six percent of emergency rooms are prepared to meet the needs of kids following a disaster. The report also found poor coordination among federal agencies charged with responding to a catastrophe like 9/11 or Katrina. A report released earlier this year found that only 12 states have minimal protections to protect kids in schools or child care facilities.

In fact, the Commission was established after Katrina, when it took six months for 5,192 missing children to be reunited their families, along with other revelations about the treatment of children during that event.

After the election, Washington will have to make a lot of difficult decisions about the path forward on the economy, global warming, Afghanistan and dozens of other issues.

The threat of domestic disaster is no less urgent and the American people clearly want Congress and President Obama to protect our children. There is simply no excuse for continued neglect on this issue.