EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation — July 25, 2007

Children and Disasters
Preparedness, Response, and Recovery

Lori Peek, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology
Colorado State University

Avagene Moore
EIIP Moderator

The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available from our archives. See our home page at http://www.emforum.org

[Welcome / Introduction]

Avagene Moore: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Amy Sebring, my associate, and I are pleased to see you here today. Our subject today is "Children and Disasters: Preparedness, Response and Recovery."

We are extremely pleased to introduce our speaker today. Lori Peek, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Colorado State University. I have known Lori for several years through her involvement at the University of Colorado where she was involved with the Natural Hazards Workshop in Boulder for several years.

Her recent research includes a longitudinal study of children's experiences in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina, and an examination of the relocation experiences of families who were displaced to the state of Colorado in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Lori is also a certified child care volunteer through the Church of the Brethren Children's Disaster Services program.

Please take the time to read Lori's bio and links to related materials on the background page after our session. Please help me welcome Dr. Lori Peek to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Thanks for being here today, Lori. I now turn the floor to you.


Lori Peek: Thank you so much for the introduction, and welcome to the forum everyone. I would like to thank Avagene and Amy for the invitation to speak today. This is a great opportunity to discuss the issues that children and youth face in disasters, and I look forward to hearing from those of you in the audience.

My "formal" presentation will proceed as follows:

First, I will share with you a little bit of background regarding my research interests. Second, I will provide an overview of two research projects that I am currently involved in. One is based in Louisiana and is exploring children’s experiences in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The other study is situated in Colorado and is examining relocation processes among children and families who were displaced to Colorado in the aftermath of the storm. Third, I will offer some general examples of ways that we may involve children and youth in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery activities.

At the conclusion of my formal remarks, I would like to learn from all of you about experiences with children and youth in your communities, ideas you have for reducing children’s vulnerability and developing their capacities, and any other thoughts you may want to share about this subject.

Most generally, my research focuses on marginalized populations -- including women, religious and ethnic minorities, and children -- in disasters. The growing literature on social vulnerability and disasters clearly demonstrates that natural disasters and other extreme events do not impact populations equally or at random. Instead, deaths, injuries, and property loss from disasters tend to reflect larger patterns of social stratification and inequality. Because of their positions in society, vulnerable groups often have the hardest time preparing for and responding to disasters, and thus suffer disproportionate impacts when an event actually does occur.

As a sociologist, I am very interested in understanding the disproportionate economic, social, and cultural impacts that vulnerable groups experience. However, like many other scholars and practitioners working in this area, I would also like to encourage more research on and discussion of the capacities of "vulnerable groups."

I am currently involved in two post-Katrina research projects that are examining the effects of this catastrophe on the lives and relationships of children and youth and their families. The first project is a collaborative study that I am engaged in with Dr. Alice Fothergill, who is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Vermont. Shortly after Katrina made landfall, Alice and I applied for a Quick Response Research Grant from the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder. We received funding, and subsequently traveled to Louisiana in October 2005.

In this research, we focused specifically on children’s experiences in the immediate aftermath of the storm. We interviewed parents, grandparents, daycare workers, school administrators, teachers, and evacuee shelter coordinators in Louisiana, in order to explore the following research questions (which were developed from Bill Anderson’s call for more social science research on children and disasters):

1) What were the children’s experiences in the disaster?;

2) What were others doing for the children to lessen their vulnerability?; and

3) What were children doing for themselves and others to reduce disaster impacts?

In examining children’s experiences in Katrina, we focused specifically on what happened to children in terms of evacuation, education, health, and short-term recovery.

We found that adults did many things to lessen children’s vulnerability. For example, parents and other primary caregivers took numerous actions to protect and support their children, including making sure that children were safe during the evacuation process, getting them settled into new schools and a temporary living situation, and helping to reestablish a sense of routine and normalcy.

In addition to parents, our data also show that shelter workers and local volunteers were crucial in helping children who lived for long periods in temporary shelters with their families. These volunteers helped with childcare, set up activity areas for children and youth, and assisted with school placement and tutoring. Adults in the school setting also played vital roles in assisting children in the disaster aftermath. Principals, teachers, school counselors, and social workers often worked overtime to help children who were affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Our research demonstrated that children and youth took active steps to reduce disaster impacts. We gathered data showing that children who were most directly affected by Katrina took actions such as communicating about the risk with both adults and other children, writing in journals and creating art, seeking out support and comfort from their friends, and helping other children recover.

Alice and I concluded this study by discussing our findings related to children’s vulnerabilities and their effective coping strategies. We also offered a number of policy recommendations that emerged from the research:

  • Schools are central to community life before and after disaster. Thus, recovery policies should ensure that schools are considered a high priority for reopening after storms (which is sometimes in contradiction with emergency plans that use schools for shelters in the aftermath of storms).

  • Thousands of children were displaced following Hurricane Katrina. Schools need to pay attention to how they welcome and integrate displaced children. In particular, if possible, it is helpful if schools assign displaced students in classrooms together and have programs in place so that the children’s adjustment is aided.

  • Administrators and teachers also need to be aware of diversity issues, as displaced children may end up attending schools with children of different racial, ethnic, social class, and religious backgrounds from their previous schools.

  • Many professionals who work closely with children during non-disaster times, such as daycare providers and teachers, are not trained regarding how to respond to children in a post-disaster context. Similarly, many disaster first responders have no background in child development and little training in thinking about the needs of children and youth. Yet these individuals often play critical roles in the lives of young people after a disaster. Thus, these groups need to be targeted for dissemination of information regarding children’s post-disaster vulnerability. This will also help bring into focus children’s special needs. The

    American Red Cross has many good resources on their Children and Disasters page (http://www.redcross.org/services/disaster/0,1082,0_602_,00.html), as does the FEMA for Kids site (http://www.fema.gov/kids/).

  • Thousands of children and youth and their families were forced to live for long periods in shelters during the aftermath of Katrina. It is important that shelter coordinators continue to implement childcare programs, tutoring programs, and activities for children and youth of different ages, in order to help encourage recovery for the youngest victims of disaster. Shelter coordinators and workers also need to be attentive to safety and privacy concerns.

  • Following Hurricane Katrina, a single mother with children received the same amount of FEMA aid as an adult man with no children. A "one size fits all" approach will not address the needs of the most vulnerable populations struck by disaster, and it is time for a reevaluation of FEMA disaster assistance to single parents with children.

If anyone is interested, the findings from this research were published in a Quick Response Report entitled "Reconstructing Childhood: An Exploratory Study of Children in Hurricane Katrina" (http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/research/qr/qr186/qr186.pdf).

A longer version of this report is available as a book chapter, "Surviving Catastrophe: A Study of Children in Hurricane Katrina," which is published in the Natural Hazards Center edited volume Learning from Catastrophe: Quick Response Research in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Postscript: In May 2007, Alice and I returned to Louisiana to conduct follow-up interviews with the initial study participants, as well as their children. We are working to understand children’s recovery from the storm. Thus, we are focusing on the experiences of children and youth in terms of their family situations, housing stability, educational opportunities, and friendship networks. We are just beginning to analyze this data, and will begin writing up the findings in the fall.

In addition to the aforementioned research in Louisiana, I have also been conducting a study on the experiences of children, youth, and families who were displaced to the state of Colorado following Hurricane Katrina. According to FEMA estimates, approximately 14,000 individuals were displaced to Colorado in the aftermath of Katrina.

Some evacuees were forcibly relocated to Colorado, after being placed on airplanes and flown out of the most storm-ravaged areas of the Gulf. Others came as a result of family or friendship networks, because they had previously lived in the state, due to offers for free housing, or simply because they had heard through the "evacuee grapevine" that Colorado was a good place to be in the aftermath of the storm.

For those of you who have ever visited the state of Colorado, you know that this region is quite different from Louisiana! Thus, I became very interested in exploring the ways that families would adjust and adapt to this drastically different social, demographic, cultural, and climatic environment.

Since October 2005, I have been interviewing children and youth between the ages of 5-18, as well as mothers and fathers, about their relocation experiences. I have also interviewed a number of social workers and other disaster response professionals who have been working most closely with this population, in attempt to assist with the resettlement process. In this study, I have focused on what challenges the youth and adults have faced, what new opportunities have arisen, and what factors are influencing decisions to stay in Colorado or to return to the Gulf Coast.

Overall, families have faced a number of significant challenges as they have attempted to rebuild their lives in Colorado. Not surprisingly, the material and financial loss that almost all of the families experienced as a result of Katrina has created significant difficulties. In addition, the destruction of dense social and familial networks has led to issues related to the loss of social and emotional support, much less financial resource sharing, and a loss of help with childcare, which is particularly an issue among single mothers. Institutional barriers to obtaining aid have also been substantial, which are often exacerbated by confusing and difficult to navigate bureaucratic structures.

The young people I have interviewed have by extension been affected by these same challenges that their parents have faced, and they have expressed much remorse due to the separation from their friends and family members. Many adolescents, in particular, have talked about how hard it has been to miss major moments in their young lives, including things like not getting to take senior pictures or go on a senior class trip, being separated from a boyfriend or girlfriend, or losing a first car in the floodwaters. Sometimes as adults, we forget how significant these moments are in young people’s lives, and how these different forms of loss can affect children and youth’s ability to recover from disaster.

Although the adults and youth have faced many challenges in the relocation process, the tugs of home and hopes for returning are complicated by many realities, such as the monumental scale of loss, the cost of returning home and rebuilding, and the fear of another bad storm. In addition, some of the young people have been doing much better in the schools here in Colorado (making new friends, doing better in terms of the coursework, building new relationships with teachers), and this is having a substantial affect on the parents’ decision to stay. I am in the process of analyzing the data from this Colorado research, and hope to have more findings in print soon!

Before we move to the more general discussion, I would like to offer a few general comments regarding children’s capacities, and the potential roles that they could play in terms of disaster preparedness, response, and recovery activities:

Children are physically and emotionally vulnerable in disasters, and they do rely on adults for various forms of protection and support, but children are not passive victims. Children have considerable strengths that could serve as a significant resource for families and communities. Children’s knowledge, creativity, energy, enthusiasm, and social networks could be utilized during all phases of the disaster life cycle, and there is increasing evidence from the field that documents the important actions young people have taken before, during, and after disaster to help themselves and others.

Below, I offer a few examples of ways that families and communities may consider engaging children and youth in disaster planning and response activities.

Preparing for Disaster

Whenever possible, provide hazards education to children in primary and secondary schools. Engage children in hands-on, experiential learning (they will learn the material better, and remember it if disaster does strike).

Reach children and youth in more informal settings, such as when they are engaged in play and leisure. Computer games, web sites, movies, and television videos all represent increasingly popular ways to actively engage children and youth in disaster preparedness activities.

Involve youth in family and community preparedness activities. Young people can play integral roles in the family planning process (they may even be the catalysts for these activities, if they learn about planning in schools or through other extracurricular activities such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or 4-H).

Responding to Disaster

During the impact phase of disaster, children have warned others of impending threats and helped save the lives of those around them. Oftentimes young people are able to warn others because of lessons they have learned in school. In Hurricane Katrina, young people assisted with the evacuation of elderly and disabled family members by placing them on mattresses and helping them to float through the floodwaters. Children and youth have also assisted with fire fighting activities during wildfires and sand bagging during times of flooding.

We of course need to be aware of age-appropriate activities, and would never want to put youth in harm’s way. At the same time, young people have long been active participants in disaster response activities, and we need to think about how we can best engage those with the time and energy to help.

Recovering from Disaster

Disasters harm the physical spaces where children live, learn, and play -- their homes, neighborhoods, schools, parks, and playgrounds. Yet adults rarely ask children about how they would like these spaces to be rebuilt. Systems can be established to include children’s voices in decision-making processes, which would contribute to more holistic community-based disaster recovery planning.

This would admittedly require some organizational innovation in many cases, but there are examples from around the globe of communities that have successfully included children’s voices in participatory planning processes. Children affected by the 2001 El Salvador earthquake identified a number of ways that they could help during the recovery phase of disaster, and I think we could all learn lessons from the list they made, which included:

  • organizing clean-up campaigns and helping to clean up refuse
  • removing loose stones and walls
  • planting trees and plants
  • helping to rebuild houses and schools
  • bringing water and food to those who are rebuilding
  • holding educational meetings and learning to draw, color, read, and write
  • caring for siblings while parents are at work

These are just a few examples of ways that we could involve children in preparedness, response, and recovery activities. If there is one take home message from today, I hope that it will be that children and youth are not just "vulnerable victims." Instead, young people have many strengths and could contribute in various ways to disaster planning and response activities. Children and youth have been left out or forgotten too often and for too long, especially given that they represent such a significant resource for families and communities.

At the Boulder Hazards Workshop this July 2007, there was a session dedicated to Children, Youth, and Disasters. At the close of that session, there was a call to create a "Children, Youth, and Disasters Network." We are currently in the process of establishing a listserv for researchers, practitioners, and policy makers. The intent of the listserv is to encourage informal discussion among those conducting research and working with children and youth in hazardous environments and disaster contexts around the globe. The list will also provide a forum for sharing information and resources related to helping children and youth prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. If you are interested in joining the list or learning more about the network, please email me at [email protected]

Thank you so much for your attention and for participating in the forum today. I would certainly welcome any questions or insights that you would be willing to share from your own experiences. With that, I would like to turn the session back over to our Moderator.

Avagene Moore: Thank you for a fine presentation, Lori. You have given us a lot to think about re: children and disasters. We will now turn to our audience for questions.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Barbara Else: Dr. Peek, would you characterize your research as qualitative in method? Did you use any standard assessment tools?

Lori Peek: Barbara, thank you for the question. Yes, both of these research projects were qualitative, ethnographic studies. The data was gathered using focus group interviews, individual in-depth interviews, and through observation. All of the interviews were tape recorded and transcribed, and the observations were recorded using field notes. We did not use standard assessment tools.

Susanne Jul: Can you comment on the role children's recovery/involvement plays in overall community recovery/resilience? That is, would a focus on children be as beneficial as a focus on adults, businesses, etc.?

Lori Peek: Yes, thanks for this question. Alice and I have both argued in our work that children's recovery is central to community recovery. Until children are back in school and daycare, until they are feeling emotionally and physically stable, it is difficult, if not impossible, for adults to begin the process of recovery. The converse is also likely true, and many mental health researchers have shown the connection between parents' mental well-being and the recovery of youth.

Roosevelt Stacy: Lori, thanks for your presentation. I work for a non-profit agency in Houston, Texas and we provide counseling services to survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I absolutely agree with the point about lessening the vulnerability of vulnerable group members [e.g. poverty stricken, socially isolated]. I'm wondering, are there programs in CO that assist families in developing financial stability in the wake of hurricane losses of material possessions and property?

Lori Peek: Hi Roosevelt, thanks for the question. Yes, Colorado actually did a really wonderful job after Katrina with helping displaced individuals and families. Granted, we had far, far fewer evacuees in this state, but the agencies that were involved -- including Catholic Charities and Lutheran Family Services -- had caseworkers who worked many long hours attempting to assist evacuees with rebuilding their lives here.

Also, a new group -- the Colorado Coalition of Faith -- was formed after Katrina. This was a group of African American religious leaders, psychologists, and business people who asked for a "seat at the table" to ensure cultural intelligence in helping the displaced. All parties worked really well together.

Rick Tobin: I'd like Dr. Peek to comment on the threat to children who are immediately orphaned and separated in catastrophic events. As some of you know, I've had concerns and I've written about this for over twenty years. I believe Katrina finally proved my point. How can Child Protective Services (CPS) officials believe they will be able to deal with these children when they can't handle the loads that have on a daily basis? There is a real disconnect here. Dr. Peek could you comment, please?

Lori Peek: Hi Rick, thank you for the question, and for the important work you have done in this area. This is a very real threat, as you indicate. I believe that the last child was reunited with their family/caregivers in April 2006, more than 7 months after the storm. I think the best lesson we can learn from this is that Child Protective Services and other experts needs to have a seat at the planning table.

Ed Kostiuk: In many small rural communities throughout America there simply is no other place to house large numbers of displaced individuals, (the communities we looked at did not have large parks or fairgrounds), except the local schools. Many of our communities have to adapt to providing both a return to schools as well as a continuous housing of displaced individuals until the community can be put back together. Have you seen other states that are also using this planning guide? Do you think we can balance the need for these larger sites to house our displaced families and at the same time use the system for returning our youth "back to school"? Some of the local Emergency Managers have opposed this ideal, since they feel there should be a separation or geographical separation from the two. Any thoughts?

Lori Peek: Ed, I am thinking about this. I am not personally aware of states that are using this planning guide, but would be curious if others in the forum audience could comment?

I do think there are creative ways we might be able to balance this school/shelter issue. For example, many of the families we spoke to in the shelters felt isolated, and even used the word "trapped." They often wanted to help. I wonder if there are ways that we could get shelter populations involved with helping rejuvenate and restore the schools? This is just the first thought off the top of my head, but I will give this some serious consideration. It is an important question.

Roosevelt Stacy: Do you know of any assistance organizations in the Houston area? I work with families who are trying to rebuild their lives and were previously poverty stricken. In order to reduce their vulnerability, there needs to be assistance with adequate paying jobs, obtaining reliable transportation, and competent childcare [for working parents]. Information on present organizations with relief and case management programs for hurricane survivors [especially in the Houston area] would be helpful. Thanks.

Lori Peek: I do have some names/contacts in my files. I could send them to you (or perhaps to Avagene after, and she can include in the transcript?). Sorry, I don't have them off the top of my head.

Ric Skinner: As a mechanism for coping with disasters, kids especially need to stay "connected" with their friends and family and the #1 way they do that is text messaging on their cell phones. I think it would be important to be sure kids have battery backup/charging available for their own phones, or be given phones for maintaining this vital connection. Also, by providing them with this communications capability, important messages regarding the disaster, etc. can be sent to them from response support organizations. Has this been considered as a coping strategy?

Lori Peek: Hi Ric, this is a fantastic point! One thing I would like to mention, in addition to the cell phones, I have spoken to several young people her in Colorado who have also used My Space to find and connect with friends. You are so right that this is a real "coping strategy" for youth!. In fact, one young girl I interviewed told me that she "thought that all of her classmates were dead." Can you imagine being 11 years old and thinking this? But then, she had a new friend in Colorado who helped her build a My Space page. With that page, she found "99% of her friends from New Orleans," and was absolutely overjoyed.

So, to get back to your initial point, I hope that we would think about the role that technology plays in these young people's lives, and that responders might think about how they can connect youth. Thanks.

Charles Haller: This is actually dovetailing off of the question that Rick Tobin asked earlier. In your research, did you gather or analyze information regarding the state's role in the planning, responding, or recovering? In this, I am not referring to the impact of the displacement of children, but the protection of children in state care, custody, or guardianship (foster care, CPS, state residential care, shared responsibility with Tribes etc.). If so, is that qualitative or quantitative information available?

Lori Peek: Charles, thank you for the question. Unfortunately, I do not have specific information from the data on the state's role in planning, responding, or recovering as related to custody or guardianship issues. Although, in two of the cases here in Colorado, mothers actually used the storm as an opportunity to leave abusive relationships, but then were forced to return to Louisiana because of custody issues. It is definitely something that I would like to pursue in greater depth, as it is so important from an organizational level. But as I mentioned, don't have enough systematic data to answer your excellent question. Thanks.

Tracy Ferea: Dr. Peek, we are active in communities helping them to prepare. Are there "model" communities that the rest of us should consider so as not to reinvent the wheel when thinking about how to prepare our communities’ children?

Lori Peek: Hi Tracy, thanks for asking this. As I mentioned at the end of my presentation, there was a call at the recent Hazards Workshop in Boulder to create a "Children, Youth, and Disasters Network." One of the reasons we saw the need for this network was exactly for the reason that you are referring to. There is lots of great work going on in communities in this nation, as well in other countries around the globe. However, right now there isn't a "central location" where we can share that information with one another and develop "best practices" that can then be adapted in culturally appropriate and community specific ways. At least not that I am aware of, and we hope this network will start capturing some of the info that you refer to. If others have "best models" for communities, I would love to hear.

Jeanne-Aimee de Marrais: One model city that is incorporating the needs of children in emergency planning is Tulsa, Oklahoma. Save the Children is working in partnership with Tulsa to help ensure that children will be safe, protected and included in all levels of planning and response. If you'd like more information, please contact me at [email protected] Thanks.

Amy Sebring: (Please note that we do have the links to the national programs on our Background Page for Save the Children and the Church of the Brethren.)

Ed Kostiuk: In response to your comment about State Emergency Management Planning, currently we are working with states in FEMA Region 6 on this project with a bi-weekly ESF #6 and #8 conference call.

Ric Skinner: What steps are being taken to be sure Web-based shelter registry systems are established that will provide "real time" registration for kids and families and their status, including photos of the kids, or if the kids have them, photos of their parents from whom they may have been separated? Shelters also can provide Internet access for MySpace and instant messaging. Of course the shelters would need to set up with "Internet Cafe's."

Lori Peek: I actually am not aware of what is happening with shelter registry systems, beyond the widespread recognition that there is an immense need for this sort of "real time" registry.

Jennifer Simpson: One concern that we have seen historically, is a re-active approach to community preparedness through education. Has your research experience found this to be true? Should not a pro-active approach where Life Safety/Disaster Preparedness Education be a crucial part of a community emergency preparedness program? For example, programs such as Explorer Posts, Fire Corps, and various programs such as Danger Rangers and RiskWatch. These programs all involve the youth of our society, which they in turn share with their families, and this becomes a network of preparedness throughout the community.

Lori Peek: Yes, I agree completely about the concern to this reactive approach, especially because when we are reactive, we often only focus on the "last disaster" rather than a more comprehensive educational approach to all hazards facing a community.

A recent report that Ben Wisner wrote, entitled "Let Our Children Teach Us" [http://www.proventionconsortium.org/themes/default/pdfs/Let-our-Children-Teach-Us.pdf] indicated that over half of the world's nations are teaching at least some hazards education in their schools. This is a good sign; however, we have little indication of the quality or effectiveness of many of these programs, o it is really time to begin the assessments of the programs that you mention. Thank you!

Simpson Jennifer: Thank you! I totally agree! It has been proven in the fire service that prevention education has reduced injuries and deaths.

Avagene Moore: My question is: Lori, if you could get a message to all emergency managers as result of your research on children, what changes would you want to see in terms of overall disaster planning?

Lori Peek: I think one of the primary messages is to involve children before and after disaster! If we involve them in advance, they are going to learn, and they may serve as catalysts in their homes and communities for preparedness. If we involve them after disaster, I firmly believe that it will help with their recovery. However, for this to happen, we are going to need to begin thinking more systematically about how we can involve children, and actually listen to their voices.

Sarah Hoffpauir: First thank you everyone for helping displaced New Orleaneans. Regarding shelter plans, we learned in LA that the state is the responsible party for shelters and that vulnerable populations did not have the support services they needed. I suggest working within your state emergency planning body to include resources in shelters you desire to implement. Secondly, preparedness is a personal responsibility. We found many believed it was the government’s responsibility to provide all services.

Lori Peek: Sarah, do you have suggestions for how to work with state emergency management planning, especially for vulnerable groups who are often isolated before the storm?

Sarah Hoffpauir: Identify who the responsible party is in your state government first.

Lori Peek: But I think this is the ongoing issue with vulnerable and marginalized groups. Is it their responsibility to identify the responsible party? Or is our responsibility to reach out to vulnerable populations in advance?

Sarah Hoffpauir: Before approaching them, have a plan in place with resources available (not just Red Cross). We have taken that responsibility here with the frail elderly, but expect parents to do so for children.

Christopher Effgen: Given your observations of the response of governments to assist children affected by Katrina, do you believe that the relocation of families as per the "Colorado Model" enabled families to recover more quickly?

Lori Peek: This difficult to answer, as "recovery" (and all the complex things that means) is still a long way off for many. Given the scale of loss and difficulties associated with rebuilding a new life in an entirely new place, recovery has admittedly been slow, and is distant for many families. But, with that said, I do think that there is much that can be learned from the case managers and others who worked most closely with the displaced populations. It is just so difficult, as some people are still in a state of flux, not yet decided about whether they will settle in Colorado, or if they will ever be able to make it home.

Ron Lopez: Comments from the Superdome, based on my first-hand experience as a National Disaster Medical Service DMAT responder: the kids exhibited BOTH extraordinary vulnerability and effects from Katrina, but also extraordinary coping and resiliency, comparatively more that the adults (proportionately speaking). Based on your comments and my experience, I am revising my teaching as a professional disaster preparedness consultant focusing on vulnerable populations. I heartily endorse 90% of Lori's recommendations for mitigation measures related to children, especially advance education on this issue, and that education should be centered around the concept of non-dependence upon any government agency for post-disaster help. Community Emergency Response Teams, Citizen Corps, Neighborhood Watch, and Communities of Faith need way more funding in this regard. See http://www.disasterhit.com for more on vulnerable populations' mitigation measures.

Lori Peek: Thank you so much. These forums are so incredibly important, as I really appreciate learning from those who are on the ground. Thank you.

Ron Lopez: Thank you Lori, for your good work!

Amy Sebring: Lori, my sense as a parent is that while you may want to protect children from the harshest realities, that they can spot insincerity a mile off. Did you pick up any related observations on how to honestly communicate with children about what has happened, post-disaster?

Lori Peek: Oh yes! You are so right. Not only do children spot insincerity, they are also well aware of the struggles and challenges that adults in their lives are facing. One young boy told me that he knew that they could not afford to go to McDonald's because his mommy didn't have enough money. He was only 5 years old. With that said, it is always a balancing act, trying to decide how much to share with children, but always being honest with them. One of the things that many mental health experts recommend is being open and honest with children, and being ready to respond as fully as you possibly can to their questions.


Avagene Moore: That is all the time we have today. Lori, again we are most grateful for your time and effort and for the good information! We certainly encourage folks to keep up with your research and other activities related to children and disasters.

Lori Peek: Thank you so much everyone!!

Avagene Moore: If I may before we close, if you would like to be alerted to future Virtual Forum topics and are not on the EIIP Mail List, please subscribe by going to the EIIP Virtual Forum homepage.

We are proud to announce a new EIIP Partner today - Ready Smart http://www.ReadySmart.com - Tracy Ferea, PhD., is the CEO and serves as the Point of Contact to the EIIP. Welcome, Ready Smart! Thanks for being here today, Tracy. If interested in partnering with the EIIP, please see the "Partnership for You" link on our homepage.

Again, the transcript of today's session will be available later this afternoon and a notice will go to our Mail Lists when it is posted.

Please join us next time, Wednesday, August 8 when our discussion will cover the Working Group on Community Engagement in Health Emergency Planning with Monica Schoch-Spana, Ph.D., Senior Associate at the UPMC Center for Biosecurity.

Before we sign off, please help me thank our speaker, Lori Peek, for her presentation. And thanks to you, the audience, for your presence and participation. The EIIP Virtual Forum is adjourned!