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Childcare advocate urges preparedness

Childcare advocate urges preparedness
Childcare advocate urges preparedness | Sharye Hendrix, Northwest Tennessee Child Care Resource and Referral Agency
As a child advocate for Northwest Tennessee, Sharye Hendrix has a goal in sight to prepare those who look after other people’s children daily throughout the work week. Hendrix said her focus is on the children of not only Martin and Weakley County, but children she helps in a nine-county region. “We cannot leave out child care providers when it comes to preparing for an emergency. What I want to know is ‘what about the children?’ Parents will want to know how child care providers are preparing for a disaster and my main concerns are the children and their safety,” Hendrix commented. Hendrix is a social worker for the Northwest Tennessee Child Care Resource and Referral Agency located on the University of Tennessee at Martin campus. She recently became a Public Awareness, Education and Communication partner with the West Tennessee Seismic Safety Commission. The commission is a task force which utilizes local, state and federal agencies to initiate a program designed to prepare the state in response to a large magnitude earthquake. During a recent meeting on UT Martin’s campus, Hendrix posed ideas to commission members for Early Childcare Facility Emergency Planning in West Tennessee. “This commission was formed in early 2006 after it was understood the risk posed by a large magnitude earthquake in this region. We chose to meet at UT Martin because it has been one of the most active organizations in the state to prepare for an earthquake through table top drills and advanced planning exercises,” Gary Patterson explained before the meeting. Patterson is a geologist who also serves as the information services director for the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis. Patterson explained the chance of a magnitude 6 or greater earthquake striking the region ranges from 25 to 40 percent. Those numbers, he said, increase by 10 percent each year. “we are on the map in planning. The information we develop through the committee will be presented to the Emergency Management Agency,” Patterson added. Preparedness plans and initiatives are developed through the EMA. Hendrix said her responsibility rests with bringing attention to the needs of child care facilities throughout West Tennessee in the event of a disaster to equip them with tools necessary for child care before, during and after a disaster strikes. Through her research, Hendrix discovered 87 of the 95 counties across the state were vulnerable to disasters. Of those counties, 4,580 child care facilities are at risk for impact during an emergency situation. Almost 320,000 Tennessee children spend much of their week at the child care facilities located in a high-risk disaster area. Hendrix told the commission that the No. 1 priority for child care programs during a disaster is to save the lives of the children and staff members. Another goal is to enable child care programs to return to providing care after a disaster for first responder parents and parents who return to work following a disaster. Looking to the future, Hendrix plans to work with existing child care programs to ensure emergency kits are in place at facilities and that a Child Care Program Emergency Plan is in place. Through CCRR, national guidelines are available for child care facilities that cover a range of topics from federal disaster legislation to helping children cope after a disaster. As a West Tennessee Seismic Safety Commission partner, Hendrix is in full swing for a series of awareness events during February 2009, which is Earthquake Awareness Month.

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