Children who become separated from their loved ones during and following a disaster are at an increased risk of trauma. Coping with anxiety and stress are much more difficult in the absence of those who know the child’s individual needs. Children separated from their parents or legal guardians are more vulnerable to maltreatment, abuse, abduction, and sexual exploitation.
In 2005, during Hurricane Katrina, our organization handled 34,045 calls, and helped resolve the 5,192 missing children cases reported to NCMEC. Because of these efforts, Congress later mandated the establishment of the National Emergency Child Locator Center (NECLC), which NCMEC operates during Presidentially declared disasters at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Disaster Planning in a COVID-19 Environment
Because of current physical distancing recommendations, individuals and families may not be able to evacuate to the traditional places they would head to during natural or man-made disasters. Individuals and families should extend evacuation timelines and plan for emergency response and power restoration to take longer. Be sure to update your ready kits, preparedness, and evacuation plans by taking the impact of COVID-19 into account. Check with your family and friends about their safety and comfort levels in terms of where you will evacuate. Also see NCMEC’s preparedness materials and helpful links for CDC information on planning for disasters in a COVID-19 environment.