New Hanover County hosts workshop focused on needs of children in disasters

Updated: Apr. 4, 2019 at 1:37 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - As New Hanover County continues to recover from Hurricane Florence, a team of disaster planning experts met Thursday to create a plan aimed at protecting the community’s children when the next disaster strikes.

County officials met with community partners and representatives from the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute to develop strategies to help increase the resilience of children who experience disasters in the county.

“We have the team from the National Center of Disaster Preparedness here to guide us through action planning following the Hurricane and they are presenting their findings of the community preparedness index and we’re bringing together folks to create a plan for our community to be more responsive to the needs of children in a disaster,” said Mebane Boyd, director of the New Hanover County Resiliency Task Force.

The action planning workshop brought together more than 30 representatives from over 20 organizations who serve more than 42,000 children in the region.

The workshop showcased data on the needs of children in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, as well as future disasters.

Participants identified areas to further develop institutional and community-wide preparedness plans and strengthened connections across various sectors that contribute to the well-being of children in the community.

“We have non-profits here, we have governmental agencies and organizations, we have volunteers, it’s really fun to be with all these people who have such a passion for the well-being of children,” Boyd said.

“Children are the bellwether of the recovery process, and it’s important that we come together as a community to help our children now and for the future,” said New Hanover County Chief Strategy Officer and Recovery Manager Beth Schrader. “This project supports New Hanover County’s strategic focus of creating a more resilient community, by engaging in a holistic approach to recovery with children at the heart.”

This workshop was conducted as part of the second phase of the Resilient Children/Resilient Communities (RCRC) Initiative. The RCRC Initiative is a national project led by the National Center for Disaster Preparedness and funded by a grant from global healthcare company GSK.

In New Hanover County, this initiative aims to supplement and support the efforts of both the New National Center for Disaster Preparedness, New Hanover County Resiliency Task Force, and the New Hanover County Long-term Recovery Group.

“We’re working today really to think about and this is an action plan, we’re not coming up with all the solutions today but we’re looking at where our greatest needs are in terms of policies and procedures and what we need to put in place across systems where children are. Schools, emergency shelters, childcare centers, the hospital. What are some policies and procedures we can put into place to make sure we think about those things and have that in place,” Boyd said.

Boyd said they did a lot of things well during Florence, but did not necessarily put children’s needs first, which is why it is necessary to create preparedness plans ahead of the next disaster.

“This work will not only benefit New Hanover County, but other communities recovering from disasters across the country”, said Jeff Schlegelmilch, deputy director of NCDP, and director of the RCRC Initiative. “This initiative brings together the strength of community partners in New Hanover County, with other partners in North Carolina as well as Arkansas, New York and Puerto Rico, and throughout the country to share best practices, develop new tools and approaches, and to ensure that the trajectory of a child’s development is not altered by disasters”

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