The West

Emergency plans forget kids
Fire danger: Firefighters watch the bush fires in Springwood, NSW. Picture: Twitter

A new report highlights serious flaws in planning for children during emergencies such as bushfires, with no clear relationship between local emergency management plans and those of schools and childcare centres.

The Save the Children investigation to be released today found children were often left vulnerable because of a lack of consistent planning across local, State and Federal governments.

The Don't Leave Me Alone report found there was better planning in place for managing the needs of animals than children, who were often not considered until problems arose.

Of 570 local government websites, just 239 emergency management plans were available online and though 85 per cent of them mentioned children, most references were "cursory".

This compared with 97 per cent of plans that catered for animals during natural disasters.

The report found there was no standard code of conduct for emergency staff working with children and inconsistent procedures across Australia for working with children checks.

In WA, only 48 of 139 local government plans were available publicly, with 14 (29 per cent) mentioning children in evacuation centre planning.

Though children were mentioned as vulnerable in nine plans, none addressed their needs in detail.

Just three WA councils, Cue, Wiluna and Victoria Plains, referred to school plans that ensured the needs of children were safeguarded in emergencies.

WA's Welfare Emergency Committee was recognised for having members with child and youth expertise and the Department for Child Protection for family services in an emergency.

Save the Children chief executive Paul Ronalds said he was shocked about the lack of detail in emergency management plans.

"There is a clear deficiency," he said.

"Authorities are not planning for the very special needs of children and not asking basic questions like 'how do you look after unaccompanied children'."

Mr Ronalds said that as WA prepared for its fire season after the NSW fires, it was essential that specific emergency planning for children be incorporated urgently at all levels of government.

The group also called for all plans to be available online for the public to access.

WA Local Government Association president Troy Pickard said councils should be encouraged to make their emergency management plans public online.

He said there was significant collaboration between relevant agencies in WA in responding to emergencies.

The West Australian

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