Rapid Screening for Environmental Risks to Protect Children
The Puerto Rico Department of Health (PR DOH) rapidly deployed a new environmental health screening tool, the Post Disaster Self-Assessment Form (PDSAF), to protect children after earthquakes. The PDSAF helps early care and education (ECE) programs quickly assess environmental hazards, build trust, help communities, and protect children. The tool was created to help fill a gap in identifying environmental health hazards that existed when evaluating ECEs after disasters.
Multiple earthquakes affected Puerto Rico’s southern region on December 28 and 29, 2019, leaving most programs serving children in the area closed indefinitely. Local municipalities and ECE facilities asked PR DOH to use the PDSAF to evaluate their centers and help them reopen safely. The tool helped identify several ECE facilities that should not reopen until assessed by an engineer and repaired. Many of the facilities were found to have cracks in the walls and supporting structures, including some items that may not have been assessed prior to the tool’s availability. PR DOH was the first department to deploy this new tool to help with initial evaluations of ECE program locations post-disaster. Real-world application of the tool has elicited additional feedback from ECE owners/operators and PR DOH, to be included in the pilot’s overall feedback.