Some parents and grandparents don’t discuss preparedness issues until the kids are in bed because they don’t believe children should have to worry about such things.
They’re right when they say the young ones shouldn’t worry about it, but wrong for excluding kids from the conversation, assuming they are old enough to understand.
Like adults, children will do much better in a crisis if they’re prepared for it. Here are some core principles to teach children to prepare them for coping with an emergency:
What is an emergency?
Calmly explain that an emergency is when something happens that we don’t expect and we have to act quickly to keep ourselves safe. It can be a storm, an overflowing river or a power outage. In some emergencies we can stay safe in place, while in others we might have to leave and go to a safe place.
Sirens and lights
Flashing lights and loud sirens mean help is near. The people driving ambulances, fire trucks and police cars help us in emergencies. The vehicles are bright and loud so that they can be seen and heard from far away.
Know whole names
Teach young children their whole name and the whole names of caregivers. If you and your child become separated, they can share this information with trusted adults to help reach you.
Address and phone
Helping your child memorize your phone number and address can quickly reunite your family. They might learn it to a song. If the address eludes them, another technique is to be able to name the nearest popular landmark to your home, such as a church, store or other distinctive public building. Rescuers can quickly get close and drive through the neighborhood until your child recognizes home.
There are people who will help keep us safe in an emergency. Police officers, firefighters, emergency responders, teachers and doctors all can help. Schools, churches, police and fire stations, government buildings and hospitals are safe places.
Choose local and out-of-town emergency contacts. A local contact can help with tasks such as picking up children from childcare facilities. An out-of-town contact may not be impacted by the emergency and can make sure you are all OK. Sometimes in emergencies it is easier to make long distance than local calls.
Where we meet
Select a central emergency meeting place where the family can gather if you can’t make it home.
Family emergency plan
This is a document for the family emergency kit and their everyday backpack. Teach them that this is information to be shared only with our emergency friends.
The plan lists each family member by full name; home, work and school addresses and phone numbers; cellphone and email addresses; local emergency contacts; out-of-town contacts; and the family meeting place.