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Disaster Prep and First Response

Dealing with Disaster: Feed the Children Works to Help Families Prepare and Recover

Photo: Courtesy of Feed the Children
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John Ricketts

Global Disaster Operations, Feed the Children

As someone working for an organization that focuses on the well-being of children and their families, what advice would you give parents to help ease their children’s fears about disasters?

I would recommend creating a plan with your family. Whether it’s possible tornadoes, floods, or crippling winter weather, families need to be prepared for the worst. When families are proactive in planning for possible disasters, it can help reduce chaos during the situation. Every plan should include evacuation routes, emergency numbers, shelter possibilities, and a communication strategy. Once you have a complete plan, practice as a family. This can help ease the minds of both children and parents. Practicing evacuation routes, where to go for shelter, and memorizing emergency numbers will help strengthen the family plan.

After you have the plan in place, what other things should families consider?

I would recommend building a disaster kit with basic items such as bottled water, non-perishable snacks, flashlights, batteries, sanitation items, important documents, and first aid kits. For children, they may want to have extra school supplies to keep them busy, comfort items such as blankets and stuffed animals, and their favorite book.

Disasters, whether natural or man-made, can be very difficult for families and especially children. What are some of the items your organization provides to help these individuals?

The way we respond to each disaster is a little different, based on the needs of the community. However, we regularly provide cleaning supplies, ready-to-eat food, shelf-stable food, bottled water, and personal care items. We also provide Kids’ Disaster Packs to children who have been affected.

Can you tell me a little more about the Kids’ Disaster Packs?

Disasters can have social, educational, and emotional impact on children. We developed the Kids Disaster Packs to address each of these areas. Each backpack is filled with items such as a toothbrush and toothpaste, tissues, Band-Aids, a flashlight, a stuffed toy, and other kid-friendly supplies, as well as a comforting coloring book which helps them understand what is happening.

How does Feed the Children reach families in need during disasters?

We believe that all disasters start and end locally. We have a network of more than 1700 community partners in cities across America that we work with to help communities and families in times of disaster.

How long has Feed the Children been responding to disasters?

We have been responding to disasters throughout our history. We respond to an average of 10 disasters each year across the United States and internationally. Last year, we responded to disasters in Alabama, Nebraska, South Carolina, Florida, California, and the Philippines.

Can you tell me the most memorable story from your disaster work with Feed the Children?

What we see when we are responding to disasters is communities pulling together and helping each other. One recent example occurred as we were responding to Hurricane Florence. One of the volunteers, who happened to be a cafeteria worker in the school we were using as a shelter, was serving meals to others even though her family had also lost everything in the hurricane. It definitely provides an opportunity to see the best in people in the worst of circumstances.

How does your work with National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) help Feed the Children better serve those in need during a time of disaster?

By working together, we are able to better identify the strength of partners and organizations that can complement our work. We are part of a network of 110 members, including other nonprofits, as well as state and national organizations.

Staff, [email protected]

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