How to Teach Kids About Emergency Preparedness
Many well-meaning parents keep their kids in the dark about preparedness to avoid scaring them with descriptions of potential disaster scenarios. The problem with being too overprotective is that it underestimates children’s capabilities and could put your entire family at risk in an emergency.
Let’s face it – kids know bad things happen in our world. Even little ones see and notice more than we think. Knowing you’ve planned ahead for an emergency comforts children and satisfies their desire for honesty about difficult situations.
Naturally, how you talk to your kids about disaster preparation will depend on the child’s age and maturity level. To get you started, here’s a list of essential strategies for preparing kids for emergencies:
As soon as your children can sing nursery rhymes, you can help them to memorize their basic information by making up a little song spelling their last name and phone number. As soon as they can, kids should also learn their address and parents’ names.
We’ve all heard stories of toddlers saving lives by calling 911, which shows it’s never too early to teach kids about this life-saving service. Make sure your child knows only to call in a true emergency, taking time to explain what does and doesn’t count. You should also help them practice what to tell the dispatcher, including name, address and why they’re calling.
Just like kids do fire drills at school, you’ll want to practice these at home as well. This gives them a low-pressure practice environment so they know what to do in an actual emergency.
You should also talk to them about location-specific scenarios like earthquakes or tornadoes, and teach them moves such as Stop, Drop and Roll or Drop, Cover and Hold On.
Make Prepping Fun
Whether you’re using a song to teach your toddlers their names or practicing how fast you can get out in a fire drill, remember that kids learn more when they’re having fun. Websites like the CDC and Ready.gov have online games to help children learn about emergency preparation.
Your child’s school or daycare center will have its own emergency response procedures, so it’s important you know these ahead of time. In case you can’t pick up your kids during a disaster, you’ll want a back-up plan for someone else to step in. Make sure to inform both the school and your child of this contingency plan.
Since it might not be possible to get home in an emergency, you’ll want to determine two or three other places the family can meet. Your children should know how to get to each place, or at least how to tell a trusted adult where to take them.
You should have a bug-out bag (small BOB) for each of your children in case you have to leave home during a crisis. These bags should include things like snacks, a flashlight, parent contact information and possibly some warm clothes. You can also get your child involved in picking comfort items such as a game, a toy, a book or stuffed animal.
In your bug-out bag, you’ll want to keep copies of key documents like birth certificates and recent photos, as well as any needed medications for your kids.
While many adults know about hazards to avoid in an emergency, children may not. That’s why it’s important to teach them to stay away from downed utility poles, power lines and trees after a disaster.
Little ones don’t necessarily need to know every bad thing that could happen during a disaster, but they do need to understand the basics of how to respond. By being calm but serious, you can help ease your kids’ fears while also showing them the importance of preparation. Knowledge is power, and it could be your child who saves lives in an emergency one day.
Frank Bates, founder of 4Patriots LLC, is a contributing writer to Patriot Headquarters, a website featuring hundreds of articles on how to be more independent and self-reliant. He also offers Food4Patriots, a supplier of emergency food suitable for long-term storage, survival and emergency preparedness.