Robeson County leaders developing disaster plan focused on children

Robeson County leaders focus on program to protect children during natural disasters

LUMBERTON, N.C. (WMBF) - Robeson County leaders are working to develop a child-focused plan in preparation for future natural disasters.

The community has been devastated by two hurricanes - Matthew in 2016 and Florence in 2018.

"Going through two disasters we've seen the displacement of our students. We’ve seen the impact that it has on them. You see the anxiety. You see the fear,” Rikki Bullard, a school behavioral therapist, said.

The child-focused program is part of a national Resilient Children/Resilient Communities Initiative that’s all about making sure children have the resources they need to weather the storm.

Throughout the year, representatives from the Public Schools of Robeson County, Robeson County Emergency Management, Health Department and others met to collaborate on action plans.

Ideas include educating children on what to expect before a disaster and the needs afterwards, such as having a play area in shelters.

"We don’t want families and children to feel like it’s a shelter, we want them to feel like it’s an extension of a home that the county’s providing momentarily until this disaster passes,” Bullard said.

The collaborative project is spear-headed by the county's Communities in Schools organization.

They organization states 37% of American households aren’t confident in their communities’ ability to meet the needs of children during disasters.

Community champion Sylvia Johnson said the initiative was established to protect young people and give them a stronger voice.

“They would be in a safe environment or could get to a safe space knowing that they are away from their parents and allowing them, I guess, the chance to grow from it and not be afraid of it, to embrace it,” Johnson said.

The project is still in the planning phases. The county will spend the next two years finalizing their plans.

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