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Access and Functional Needs of Children in Disasters – Planning for All Children

The National Response Framework’s definition of “Functional Needs Populations” is “Populations whose members may have additional needs before, during, and after an incident in functional areas, including but not limited to: maintaining independence, communication, transportation, supervision, and medical care. Individuals in need of additional response assistance may include those who have disabilities; who live in institutionalized settings; who are older adults; who are children; who are from diverse cultures; who have limited English proficiency or are non-English speaking.” 

The access and functional needs of children with disabilities and children with health care needs are part of planning for the whole community, and not a separate, or special approach to disaster planning. All children are at risk in disasters.  
Children rely on parents, family members, and other adult care providers to give guidance and protection to ensure their safety and well being.  Children depend on routine practices of multiple programs and services, including schools, before and after school programs, medical programs and services, and many other child support programs.  Children become accustomed to these routine programs, services, and schedules, and build a sense of security around maneuvering and participating in these daily regimens. All children, including children with access and functional needs, expect adults to administer policies and practices that protect them.  When disasters happen, the disruption that impacts children’s lives creates environments that they are not equipped to manage.

The Pediatric Emergency Preparedness Planning Tools provide an inclusive planning framework that promotes policies and practices to ensure all children’s needs are integrated into local, state and national planning initiatives.