The Loma Prieta Earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area on October 17, 1989. Remembered by many for occuring during the nationally-televised World Series, the quake quite literally rocked many people’s world. Many children — thanks to emergency preparedness training — knew to duck and cover under the nearest table. Many local parents and kindergarten classes had drilled a steady stream of earthquake preparedness into their children’s heads. On that day, some simple preparedness training saved lives.
Even if you don’t live in an earthquake zone like the Bay Area, emergency preparedness for tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, floods and other unexpected acts from Mother Nature is essential to helping children prepare and cope with natural disasters. An emergency can seem incredibly scary to a young children, and without a clear plan in place, it’s natural for a child to feel overwhelmed and panic. Discussing a possible disaster as a family, creating a plan, and practicing this plan help children emotionally and mentally prepare for an emergency.
Here’s how to get your children involved in emergency preparedness planning:
Talk to your children about natural disasters. From the recent Midwest tornadoes to Hurricane Katrina, natural disasters are frequently discussed in the media. Use these examples to begin a conversation about natural disasters and what to do in an emergency.
Understand your children’s fears. Natural disasters can leave children feeling like the world is a hostile, uncaring place. The potential loss of beloved toys, pets or other personal items can feel incredibly overwhelming. Talking about disasters as a family creates a safe environment for addressing your child’s fears. Remind him or her that while an emergency is very unlikely, creating and practicing an emergency preparedness plan is the best way to be prepared.
Create a family plan. As a family, sit down and create an emergency plan. Make this a fun event for children by talking about the plan over pizza, snacks or before playing a family game. Discuss with your children what they should do if an emergency strikes when they are at school, visiting a friend, or at home by themselves. Ready.gov has great resources for creating a personalized “Just-in-case” family plan.
Know who to call. Pick one relative or close friend that each family member will call when the emergency is over. Discuss what to do if this person is not available. For example, if your kids can’t reach Uncle Joe, they should know to call Aunt Heidi. Oftentimes it is easiest to pick a family member who does not live in the same community as you do, and who will not be experiencing the same emergency. Add emergency contact information to your children’s cell phones, laminate a small emergency contact card for your kids to keep in their backpacks and place phone numbers on the fridge.
Know where to meet. Pick a safe location in the neighborhood, like a neighbor’s house or a park, and practice going to this meeting point from different places in your home and neighborhood.
Rehearse safety measures. Practice makes perfect. Many emergencies, like tornadoes or fires, can strike with little to no warning. Rehearsing safety measures presents children with a comfortable, known routine. If a child is home alone in the event of an emergency or an adult is not close by, it is easy to return to this routine. If an emergency strikes when your children are at school, sports practice, or another after-school activity, remind them to follow the instructions of their teachers, coaches or friend’s parents.
How do you prepare your children for a possible emergency? Share your emergency preparedness tips!