Todd’s Note: As an educator, this is a subject that is very close to my heart. Children are very bright and will learn what to do in an emergency. There are plenty of news stories out there where children have come to the rescue of their parents because they were taught what to do. If you have children, take the time to teach these skills.
Most adults have thought about what they would do in emergency situations, but parents also need to think about what they want their kids to do in an emergency. Children are away from their parents frequently and are often at home alone in their house, so the likelihood that a child may need to know how to respond to an emergency on their own is great. Without instruction from their parents, children won’t know where to go or who to call and may expose themselves to greater danger. Here are some steps you can take to prepare your children for an emergency.
1. Talk About Emergencies
Start by talking with your child about various emergencies that could occur. Talk to them about fires and flooding and other natural disasters common to your area be it tornadoes or hurricanes. Also discuss other emergencies like broken bones, carbon monoxide, a leak in the gas line or a burglar breaking into the house. Show your child where the fire alarm and carbon monoxide alarm are. Keep the details you share appropriate to different age groups, and reassure your children that emergencies are rare, and they don’t need to be scared.
2. Create an Emergency Plan
After your child understands what different emergencies are, create a plan that your child can remember and respond to. It may help to role play different situations to help your child remember. If a child is home alone, teach them to crawl to an exit and call 911 from a neighbor’s house if there is a fire. Teach your child to call 911 in an emergency medical situation even if they are choking and cannot talk. Let them know that 911 will always send help even if they can’t talk. Show children a safe hiding place in the event of a tornado or other extreme storm. Have an emergency meeting place for the child to go to after a storm if they are alone and the house is damaged. Be sure your child has your phone number and address memorized, so they can call you and seek help.
3. Create Emergency Kits
Spend one evening as a family putting together emergency preparedness kits and food storage. Create a list of items you will need and make it into a scavenger hunt to keep it fun for the kids. Be sure to include a flashlight, a change of clothes, a radio, change and a phone card, a blanket, water, non perishable food for up to three days and a toy the child can play with. Talk with your child about the purpose of each item, such as, “If you get wet, you should change into dry clothes so you don’t get cold.”
4. Prepare for Long-Term Emergencies
As victims of Hurricane Sandy will attest, many natural disasters can require surviving with no electricity, gasoline or stocked grocery stores for an extended period of time. Prepare your child before and during these situations by acknowledging their fears and disappointments and giving them enough information to let them know they are getting help from different services like the electric company that is repairing power lines.
Having adequate food storage, water storage and nonfood items to survive on your own for a month or more will help considerably in these situations. Have a good mix of groceries that you regularly eat as well as bulk items like flour or freeze dried foods stored away. Keep your food storage in a cool, dry area to keep it from going bad and rotate through it often. Consider getting a backup generator so you can cook and have heat after an emergency.
5. Review and Practice Regularly
Be sure to review your emergency plan with your kids at least once a year and practice what a child should do in each emergency situation. The more you review and practice the more familiar your child will be with the plan, and he or she will be able to react quickly should an emergency actually occur. Go through your emergency kits and food storage once a year as well to be sure everything still works, the clothes still fit and replace the food and water.
Lee Flynn is a freelance writer interested in helping others develop self reliance through food storage.
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