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With weather as beautiful as it was for Saturday’s Emergency Preparedness “Prep” Rally, it’s tough to imagine a hurricane devastating the same neighborhood this time 2 years ago. Families from our Lower East Side and Far Rockaway neighborhoods were caught by surprise too when Hurricane Sandy flooded their housing developments and rendered our Virginia Day Nursery inaccessible to the children who attend each day. Without precedents for such extreme weather events, and with a serious disaster response knowledge gap, some of the city’s most vulnerable residents were ill-prepared for safety or recovery.
Families who attended the Prep Rally recalled their shock and horror as they watched the water level rise and engulf the apartments on the floors below them. One young girl explained how frightened she had been in the days without power and heat, alluding to the trauma that many children experienced during and after the storm. The storm affected 65,000 homes and damaged more than 250 child care centers. The ramifications are often the worst in low-income communities where the flexibility to move or buy new things doesn’t exist.
“We can’t promise that an event like this won’t happen again, but we can promise that we can be more prepared as a community, and that we can keep our children safe when disaster strikes,” said Helen Davis, Director of Early Childhood Development for ESS and Safe Space.
Prep Rallies, hosted throughout the country with the support of Save the Children, are helping families close the knowledge gap around disaster preparedness and pool resources, especially in communities where resources for daily living are scarce.
“Save the Children was thrilled to be able to support ESS & Safe Space in hosting their first Community Prep Rally,” said Jen Smith, Manager of Systems Support for Save the Children. “The rallies are part of our Get Ready, Get Safe initiative, and help communities prepare for emergencies so that when disaster strikes families will be ready and children will be safe.”
High spirits and clear skies didn’t distract guests from the task at hand—bringing home best practices and resources for family safety. The FDNY helped children take safety inventory of their homes while the Ryan Nena Community Health Center and other providers guided children and families through first aid demonstrations. Other booths focused on supporting mental health and addressing trauma in the aftermath of events.
The Prep Rally is just one aspect of ESS and Safe Space’s holistic approach to early childhood development. We understand that future success depends on strong foundations: academic, mental, and physical. With an entire community rallying around children’s health and wellbeing on Saturday, we see bright futures and sunny skies ahead for children at Virginia Day.
Save the Children is seeking to expand this program all across the tri-state area as a continuation of Hurricane Sandy Recovery efforts. Their new Prep Rally Kit makes it easy for any community to implement their own event and can be found at: www.savethechildren.org/PrepRally.