Youth and Disasters

traumaPost by Lynette Black, 4-H Youth Development Faculty, Oregon State University

When it comes to the effects of disasters, children are a vulnerable population. Understanding the unique needs of children and including these needs in disaster planning will help them better cope with life following the disaster. Let’s take a look at this unique population.

They Rely on Adults

Children are physically and emotionally dependent on the caring adults in their lives. During disasters they will turn to the adult to keep them safe. If the adults are unprepared, the children are left vulnerable both physically and emotionally. This means child care providers, educators, afterschool providers, coaches and other caring adults need to be prepared with disaster plans that include knowledge of how to respond to disasters, comprehensive evacuation plans, and safe and efficient family reunification plans.

They are Not Small Adults

Children are more susceptible to the hazards caused by disasters due to their underdeveloped bodies and brains. Their skin is thinner, they take more breaths per minute, they are closer to the ground, the require more fluids per pound, and they need to eat more often; leaving the child more vulnerable to physical harm from the disaster. In addition, their brains are not fully developed leading to limited understanding of what they experienced and possible prolonged mental health issues. Since children take their cures from their caring adult, the adult’s reactions and responses can either add to or minimize the child’s stress level. Preparations for disasters need to include not only survival kits including first aid supplies for the physical body, but also teaching children (and their adults) stress reducing coping skills for positive mental health.

Their Routine Equals Comfort

Children need routine to help them make sense of their world. Keeping the child’s schedule as consistent as possible following a disaster is crucial to their sense of well-being. The reopening of school, afterschool and recreational programming as soon as possible adds stability the child’s life. Helping families return to a routine known to the child (snack time, bed time, story time) is of utmost importance and helps the child find a new norm post-disaster.

They are At Risk

At particular risk for prolonged mental health and substance abuse issues is the adolescent population. Their brains are in a developmental stage where, in simple terms, the executive function is underdeveloped leaving the emotional part of the brain in charge. This causes this age group to “act without thinking” and feel emotions more intensely than other ages. Disasters increase the typical teen emotions and behaviors leading to greater risk taking, impulsivity and recklessness. They also suffer from increased anxiety and depression and can develop cognitive/concentration difficulties. The caring adults in an adolescent’s life can help recovery by being available to them; listen without judgment, stay calm, serve as a good role model, encourage involvement in community recovery work and resumption of regular social and recreational activities. Understand that with adolescents the effects of the disaster may last longer and may even reappear later in life.

Disasters and traumatic events touch all of us, but can have a particularly traumatic effect on children. The good news is most children will recover, especially if the caring adults in their lives take the steps before, during and after the event to provide basic protective factors and to restore or preserve normalcy in their lives.

See Lynette’s webinar on this topic. If you are a childcare provider, you may also be interested in this online course on disaster preparedness for childcare providers.

View Impacts of Disaster on Youth Webcast

Growing the EDEN Resource Catalog and Youth Programs

 Pat Skinner, EDEN web manager, is blog post author.

CLIMB HIGH (2)

The networking support team at LSU is pleased to have Debbie Hurlbert putting her energy into these two important growth areas, working primarily with the Information Clearinghouse Committee and the youth-focused members of EDEN’s Family and Consumer Science/4-H Youth PAWG. If you’ve been to either of the last two EDEN Annual Meetings you’ll remember Debbie as the person behind the 4-H youth
themselves presenting their mitigation program in Alabama (a first youth presence at an EDEN Annual meeting), and helping to convene a small youth programs group in Las Cruces, to see if the recent surge in youth programs is sustainable, and warrants a separate PAWG. As a result of that meeting EDEN now has a Youth and Disasters Pinterest board. The board can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/edenpins/youth-and-disasters/.

What YOU can do to help EDEN work better for you

Here are two things you can do!

The first thing you can do.

If you have youth-audience programs and educational/exercise/training materials, make sure Debbie knows about them. She has already scoured the past annual meeting agendas and found quite a bit, but we know there’s more going on than we hear about at these meetings. She reached out to Lynette Black, Ryan Akers and Susan Kerr, who have submitted a proposal for PILD. She’s even started posting in EDEN’s Youth and Disasters Pinterest channel. You can make simple entries here, and Debbie will get back to you for the details!

And now for the second.

If you have educational resources (all audiences) you’d like to recommend to other delegates, help Debbie get them into the Resource Catalog.  Start by seeing if they’re already IN the catalog.  From the Resource Catalog home page,  http://public.eden.lsuagcenter.com/ResourceCatalog , search for your state name. Find your Institution on the left “Filter List.”  For example, the search for Louisiana returns 29 items, of which 28 are for the LSU Institution and one is for Louisiana Sea Grant. Click on your institution name for a list of your institution’s resources.  Send Debbie your catalog suggestions here.

Screenshot 2016-01-12 10.32.45

 

 

What Kinds of Resources is EDEN Looking For?

Access to shared state resources was very high on the list of benefits of EDEN in the recent delegate survey, and the catalog is a primary means of doing that. As you have time, explore the tags, and see how the filters use tags to refine search results. The more you know, the more we’ll grow!

If you’re wondering what resources can be cataloged, here are the resource types:

  • Audio Production
  • Book-Handbook – Manual
  • Course – Curriculum
  • Demo – Showcase Facility
  • Disaster Plan
  • Disaster Report
  • Display – Exhibit – Poster
  • Fact Sheet – Small Brochure
  • Image Collection
  • Memorandum – Agreement
  • News Release
  • Newsletter-Bulletin
  • Presentation Materials
  • Program – Initiative
  • Promotional Items
  • PSA
  • Published Paper – Article
  • Resource – Data Collection
  • Tool – Application (Interactive)
  • Training – Exercise Materials
  • Video Footage
  • Video Production
  • Webinar
  • Website – Blog
  • White Paper
  • Worksheets – Guidebook

Disasters and Environment: Science, Preparedness, and Resilience – 13th National Conference on Science, Policy and the Environment

NIFA shared booth space with EDEN at the 2013 NCSE national conference
NIFA shared booth space with EDEN

Each national conference hosted by the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) has a specific theme. This year’s theme focused on preparedness and resilience. Held in Washington, DC, it was attended by leaders from the scientific, diplomatic, emergency management, conservation, business, disaster response, educational, and policy communities. It was a big meeting.

You’ll find on the conference web page recorded interviews with plenary panelists, a link to C-SPAN footage of the first day of the conference, and links to some of the speakers’ PowerPoint presentations. The C-SPAN footage features Margareta Walhstrom (Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, United Nations), Craig Fugate (Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency), and three plenary sessions (Japan 2011: Cascading Disasters; The Gulf Coast: Diverse Converging Issues; and Aridity and Drought and their Consequence).

On day two of the conference, Rick Atterberry, Steve Cain, Pat Skinner and I hosted a breakout workshop—Building Community Resilience and Capacity through Extension Programs and Youth Corps.

Our breakout session was enriched by including Joe Gersen (Public Lands Service Coalition) and Levi Novey (The Corps Network). Their names and the addition of Youth Corps to our session attracted several people we would not have otherwise met. One of the most important themes I saw in our session was that college students and young professionals don’t believe they are taken seriously when it comes to disaster resilience. Their talents and experience are not fully used even though they have much to offer. EDEN should consider how to improve the integration of youth and young professionals with recovery and mitigation efforts.

Hosts of each of the 23 breakout workshops were asked to compile a list of recommendations for new initiatives, partnerships, collaborations, or actions. The synthesized list will be distributed to the Administration, Congress, state and local government, and a myriad of other agencies and groups. The full list of breakout workshop recommendations is available for download.

Which, if any, recommendations do you think EDEN should address?