Families urged to prepare for separation
Missing children center offers advice, as Hurricane Rita nears
From Paul Courson
YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (CNN) -- For families who must evacuate ahead of storms such as Hurricane Rita, there are basic ways to prepare in case people become separated.
Make sure people outside your immediate family have current pictures of your children, urged Ernie Allen, the president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
"Take digital photos of your children and e-mail it to friends and relatives so we can get photos," he said.
He also advised parents to make "a little, simple ID for your child" to keep with them. The information can include a basic list of distinguishing marks.
"So many children in this situation were not able to tell us or social services who they are and where they lived and what their mom's name was," Allen said.
"We recommend that parents take this seriously," he added.
Evacuations already are under way along the coast of Texas, where Rita is projected to make landfall early Saturday. The hurricane reached Category 5 intensity Wednesday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 165 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. (Full story)
As calls continued to come in Wednesday about children missing after Hurricane Katrina, Allen told CNN that thousands of parents didn't have photos of their children with them as they evacuated. Such a tool is valuable when it comes to reuniting separated families.
The Center for Missing and Exploited Children "has learned a lot from the Katrina experience," said Allen. "We have people on the ground. We have offered our center and resources to the state of Texas ... There's a good clearinghouse in Austin (and) we have offered to assist them in any way we can..."
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