Skip the annex, just be inclusive and flexible

I’m reading an article Children and disaster planning: The National Commission on Children and Disaster’s finding and recommendations by Emily Cathryn Cornette and Angelique Pui-Ka So in the Journal of Emergency Management (Vol 9, No 2, March/April 2011).  From the article:

The [National Commission on Children and Disasters] recommends that children should be categorized independently of at-risk populations because grouping them with other special needs populations leads to a lack of concentration on, and the eventually marginalization of, children’s needs.  The Commission feared that placing children in the all-inclusive “special needs” category would also encourage disaster planners to merely push children into the appendix or annexes of current plans instead of incorporating children’s needs into the body of the plans themselves.

Advocates that represent — or at least claim to represent — segments of the population want more specific attention to their cause.  The natural turn was to assume the disaster plans were for the mainstream population and this special interest group had special needs not addressed in the plan.  Appendices were added to the end of the plan to handle these “special” situation.  Advocates keep pushing for more special appendices which creates unwieldy plans with many very strict paths.  At times, it feels like the advocate is telling the EM “don’t worry, we’ll kick you in the seat of your pants if you’re wrong” and less like a meaningful partnership to help all.

When will the entire emergency management community and all special interest advocates recognize that we’re all in a segment of the population that needs special attention?  Nearly everyone in the population could fit in at least one the categories of children, elderly, disabled (visibly or not), economically depressed, under-insured, socially isolated, dependant on some form of technology, or just basically ill-equipped to response to and recover from a disaster. Continue reading Skip the annex, just be inclusive and flexible