The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill sponsored by Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. requiring federal agencies to include the needs of children when communities are hit by natural disasters.
“I wanted to sponsor this bill because we must make the safety and well-being of children a top priority when we plan for natural and man-made disasters,” said Payne, Jr. in a press statement. “When these tragedies occur, it is the children of communities who suffer the most.”
The Homeland Security for Children Act, which passed by a final vote of 374-11, would require the Department of Homeland Security to include feedback from organizations representing the needs of children in future department strategies, policies and plans. It would direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to identify and integrate the needs of children into all emergency preparation, protection, response and recovery activities dealing with natural and man-made disasters as well as terrorist actions.
New FEMA Position
In addition, it would create a new position of Children’s Technical Expert within FEMA to ensure that the needs of children are addressed and considered during these agency activities.
“A strategic and comprehensive plan regarding the needs of children must be in place before, during and after any emergency,” stated Payne. “I believe we have a moral obligation to protect the next generation.”
In a separate action, four federal agencies are behind a new website dedicated to school safety after being pushed by Rep. Payne.
School Safety Website
The Federal School Safety Clearinghouse website at www.schoolsafety.gov is a collaboration between Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Education, and Justice departments. The website went live soon after Payne questioned government officials on Feb. 7 about when it would be available.
The website is an online resource where K-12 school administrators, parents, and law enforcement officials can find information to prevent and protect students from harm.
“Schools should be secure places where children can learn,” said Payne. “It is important to have a place where all schools can find advice and techniques to improve school safety. When parents drop their children off at school, they should not have to worry that it might be the last time they see them.”
The site contains guides, tools and links to help administrators handle threats to school safety, from how to evacuate a school during a crisis to how to deal with bullying and cyberbullying. Additionally, the website contains information on how to help students recover from traumatic incidents.