As of today, American parents have sent 69 million children back to school and child care. But many have no idea what protections exist to keep kids safe in the very places they're supposed to be protected.
According to a new Harris Poll online survey, 63 percent of U.S. parents with children in school or child care are not very familiar with emergency plans in those locations. Forty-two percent don't even know where to meet up with their children in case of evacuation.
This is disturbing, because disaster can strike anytime, anywhere -- a point reinforced by the national parents' poll included in Save the Children's 2014 Disaster Report Card, out today.
More than half of U.S. families (54 percent) with kids in school or child care have been personally affected by hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, school shootings or other types of disaster. In the past year alone, our nation has experienced at least 20 school shootings and 50 natural disasters requiring a federal response.
Two thirds of the 1,012 parents in the nationally representative poll said they were concerned by risks their children face from national disaster. Seventy percent worry about school shootings.
Yet, 67 percent of U.S. parents don't know if their child's school or day care practices emergency drills frequently, or at all. And -- here's the kicker -- basic emergency plans aren't even required in 21 states and Washington, DC. (You can check your state here.)
Parents don't do much better at home. While three in five say they have an emergency plan in place, many of those parents haven't taken basic actions to protect kids. For instance, nearly a third of these parents don't have a family meeting place. More than a third of them don't even have two days' supply of food and water. A five days' supply is recommended.
The majority of parents who say they have emergency plans also don't know where to find shelter locally or have an agreed upon out-of-town contact, which is critical should disaster affect communications.
Parents should also make sure all schools and caregivers have key contact information, and that younger children can identify themselves if they get separated.
There are simple actions everyone can take to better protect our children should disaster strike. Packing a "go kit" for each member of the family is a good start. It should include essential toiletries and medical and contact information and -- for kids -- a favorite activity and a comfort item that can help them cope if disaster upturns their young lives.
If you agree that children's safety should be a priority, please take our pledge to protect children from disaster. Then act on it. To learn more about the 2014 Disaster Report Card and find resources to better prepare your family and community, go to www.savethechildren.org/US-Disaster.