National WIC Association

Disaster-Planning Resources for WIC

September 11, 2018

Reminders of disasters seem to be everywhere today: a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean and a tropical storm in the Pacific, both threatening US territory; the anniversary of the September 11 attacks; and all of September is National Preparedness Month.

WIC participants - pregnant women, infants, and children - are among the most vulnerable in natural or human-caused disasters. Although not an emergency-assistance program, WIC can play an important role in helping families impacted by disasters get back on their feet. NWA has compiled some key resources to help you be as prepared as possible in the event of a disaster.

General Resources

  1. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Guide to Coordinating WIC Services during a Disaster is a key resource, outlining the role of WIC in disasters. This guide defines WIC’s role in various types of disasters, such as a human pandemic, natural disaster, or bioterrorism. It also outlines how different WIC services should be delivered during a disaster. Reference this guide for procedural guidelines.
  2. CDC-funded research following Hurricane Sandy that identified ways to improve preparation, response, and recovery efforts for future disasters. This article specifically addresses lessons learned regarding disaster response in WIC. These takeaways may be helpful as you conduct preparedness in your state, local agency, or clinic.
  3. The American Academy of Pediatrics compiled a guide for best practices in supporting breastfeeding women and infants during a disaster.
  4. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has many resources that may be useful to you and/or WIC participants:
  5. The March of Dimes has developed Are You Ready, a flier on emergency preparedness for pregnant women and families with infants.

Key Considerations for Disaster Planning at the State Level

  1. Communicate with your local WIC agencies with details of what is expected of them in the event of a disaster. Define their specific roles, and outline how the state agency can help.
  2. Practice emergency and preparedness responses with drills and trainings. Conduct trainings with local agencies. Share successes and gaps in trainings among adjacent agencies.
  3. Create open lines of communication among nearby agencies. This way, everyone can be aware of which agencies need to transfer participants, which ones can accept new participants, and which ones need supplies.
  4. Remind local agencies to keep documentation safely and securely away from potential flooding. Make copies of and electronically scan important documents.
  5. Consider setting up a hotline to share which clinics are closed and which ones are open in the event of a disaster.
  6. Be aware of where to locate backup computers, laptops, and internet service.
  7. Prepare a strategy for contacting WIC participants.
  8. Explore texting and social media as a communication platform.
  9. An internet-based system (as opposed to an intranet-based system) allows staff to work and access shared drives from a remote location.

Key Considerations for Disaster Planning at the Local Level

  1. Have a copy of the state agency’s emergency plan at hand.
  2. Contact your state agency to inquire about expectations. Determine with the state agency what role to play as a local agency.
  3. Prepare a strategy for contacting WIC participants.
  4. Emergency contact cards should be created and distributed when appropriate.
  5. Keep participant contact information current and up-to-date.

NWA is working with FNS staff and state agencies to ensure that permissible flexibilities are in place to meet WIC participant needs throughout the East Coast hurricane.