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Fire readiness for Oregon’s youngest residents
By Talia Gad
 
When a household of five becomes licensed for childcare, its occupants can double overnight. This is great news for local business growth and for parents seeking personalized child care. However, what does it mean for our children’s safety during a disaster?
 
Questions like these fuel the work of Jennifer Masotja. She is the all-hazards planner for Community Resilience and Vulnerable Populations (CR and VP). CR and VP is part of the Health Security, Preparedness and Response (HSPR) Program. Masotja’s most recent focus turned to childcare for our state’s youngest residents. The results are inspiring.
 
“Ensuring that individuals and agencies that provide child care are prepared to respond and recover from a disaster is important to our state’s resiliency,” said Masotja. “In recognizing this, the Community Resilience program  partnered with the Oregon Employment Department’s Child Care Division for preparedness planning. The programs serve as advocates for one of Oregon’s voiceless vulnerable populations.”
 
HSPR’s collaboration with the Child Care Division (CCD) has allowed the CR and VP program to develop, enhance and distribute materials that will affect the state’s approximately 3,500 registered child care centers..
 
The programs developed an emergency and disaster response packet. It includes checklists for every natural disaster, weather event and human-generated crisis. They also created an emergency preparedness contact list for each of the state’s 36 counties.  The programs also developed online trainings and updated relevant local disaster response resources. 
HSPR’s donation of fire safety kits to the CCD also increases preparedness. They will be placed at statewide resource and referral agencies. The kits are an award-winning, multi-media fire safety program designed for young children. Fireproof Children and BIC Corporation partnered to develop the kits..
 
Susan Kramer, CCD childcare licensing specialist, says these resource and referral agencies “have first and continued contact with providers at local community sites.” She said distributing the kits through these agencies “will allow child care providers to borrow and use them with the children in their homes. This will have a positive impact on safety for children all over Oregon.”
 
CCD and HSPR are also creating additional information and trainings for childcare providers. Julie Smith, CCD childcare licensing specialist, said fire safety is the entire focus of their 2013-2014 childcare facility visits.
 
“We just completed preparations and a packet of information for family child care providers,” said Smith. “The state fire marshal's office provided some [additional] packet information. We also compiled handouts that include general preparedness, health and safety information.” These materials will deliver much-needed preparedness resources to help our kids be safer.
 
The CR and VP program will next work with long-term care facilities across the state. The goal is to increase their preparedness planning and community resilience by deepening relationships with other state agencies. Agencies include the Oregon Health Authority Addictions and Mental Health Division, the Oregon Department of Human Services Aging and People with Disabilities Program and other programs.
 
For more information about the Community Resilience and Vulnerable Populations program, email Jennifer Masotja at Jennifer.Masotja@state.or.us. You can also call her at 503-269-5110.