Children are not small adults. They have special needs based on their physiologic, anatomic, developmental and cognitive attributes, all of which put them at increased risk during a disaster or terrorist event. Some of their unique vulnerabilities in a disaster event include:
Currently there are more than 3 million children under the age of 18 in Illinois, and 800,000 of those children are age 5 or younger.
Illinois has a strong commitment to the children in our state, and to assuring preparedness and planning efforts are in place to meet the needs of children in a disaster or terrorism event. In May 2000, the Illinois Terrorism Task Force (ITTF) was created with the primary responsibility to ensure statewide preparedness in the event of a terrorist event. This task force established several subcommittees and workgroups to assist in meeting this responsibility.
In 2002 the ITTF Pediatric Bioterrorism Workgroup was created. In 2011, this Workgroup adopted a more all hazards approach and was renamed the Pediatric Preparedness Workgroup. This group is responsible for identifying best practices and developing resources to assist in assuring that the special needs of children are addressed during disasters. This pediatric workgroup is comprised of volunteer physicians, nurses, paramedics, pharmacologists, psychologists, state/local health department personnel as well as representatives from key organizations, such as the American Red Cross, Illinois Association of School Nurses, Illinois Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics, Illinois College of Emergency Physicians, Illinois Hospital Association, Illinois State Council Emergency Nurses Association, Illinois Medical Emergency Response Team, and Illinois Poison Center, among others. Illinois Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC) is responsible for chairing and coordinating the activities of the Pediatric Preparedness Workgroup.
Funding through the federal Hospital Preparedness grant program has helped support the activities of the Pediatric Preparedness Workgroup and to fund EMSC positions.