How prepared is your child?


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How prepared is your child?

Ever been accused of being overly protective of your children?

Maybe it’s true. And it’s doing them a disservice, because . . .

When it comes to an emergency situation – you MAY NOT BE THERE to protect your child!

The good news?

Children are trainable! They are resilient! Give them tools to work with, and they can surprise you.

(Heck, this goes on throughout your life as a parent!)

Start where you are.

Here are some questions you can ask your kids to see just how well they would manage BY THEMSELVES in an emergency.

Of course, the first reaction for most small children would be to run crying for you. But what if you are not there? These questions are designed to help your child think past that initial reaction and move through to the next step.

How well the question-answer conversation goes will depend for the most part on your own ability to guide it in a meaningful way – i.e., with the right amount of information for each child. (It’s easy to go overboard . . .!)

But if you can help your child realize that there is a course of action he or she can take that will be smart and that will help . . . then you’ve made a huge difference in how well things will turn out.

So, some sample questions. Pick one to start with.

  1. If there’s a fire in the house, what would you do first?
  2. If you are at the park playing, and you feel an earthquake, what would you do?
  3. If you’re home alone, and you hear our smoke alarm go off, what would you do?
  4. If a policeman is knocking at the door, what would you do?
  5. What if you try to call 911 and no one answers?

These are pretty tough questions. Your child probably won’t be happy even thinking about something happening when he’s alone.

Still, given a bit of encouragement, your children can probably come up with some good ideas.

The purpose of the conversation is to remind your child that emergencies DO happen, to figure out what your child knows already about dealing with them, and then identify more good ideas and turn them into action steps.

Build simple action steps with your child.

What follows are some examples of action steps that might be appropriate. You will build your own list, depending on where you live, the makeup of your household and the skill level of your child.

  • Be sure you can tell a Firefighter or a Police Officer your whole name (first Name, last name) and where you live (your street address). (I’ve met 6 year old children who are unable to talk to adults.)
  • Memorize your home telephone number or a parent’s cell phone number. (This applies to older children, too!)
  • Know at least two ways you can get out of the house. How can you get out of the second floor of the house if you can’t go down the stairs? (Only kids who like the idea of “escaping” have really considered this!)
  • If the lights go out, find a flashlight. (Where?)
  • Fix a meal while you’re waiting for things to get back to normal.
  • When you feel an earthquake, the first thing to do is: ____, ____ and ____. (Children in California schools know this one.) What if the earthquake happens at night when you’re in bed? (Cover your head with the pillow. Don’t jump up and run barefoot through the dark house! Flashlight? Shoes?)
  • Call 911 in an emergency.  (Having a landline will allow even small children to call for help. If teens and adults all just have cell phones, a small child may have no options.)
  • If there’s no answer at 911, what does that mean?
  • Don’t automatically open the door because someone says so. (What else could you do?)
  • When you can’t stay in the house, or can’t reach it, go to our “safe place.”
  • If you have to leave in an emergency, grab your go-bag.
  • In an emergency, wear shoes.
  • And more . . .

Now, it’s on to the most important, third piece of this plan.

Practice the action steps.

When a disaster disrupts your child’s regular routine, a back-up plan THAT’S BEEN PRACTICED will fall into place. Without that practice, the child will likely be unable to make any good decisions.

Every one of the steps you’ve come up with in your conversations can be practiced.

Here are examples that you can use as starters.

  • Go room-by-room through your house and identify 2 exits from each room. (Windows work if they’re not blocked by bushes or bars.) You may want to draw a floorplan of the house and show those exits.
  • Climb to the second floor to see how to get out without going down the stairs. If you have a fire escape or an emergency escape ladder, assemble it and climb down. If you or your child can’t make it down, you can’t count on the ladder to save anyone!
  • Practice reciting address and telephone numbers. The number of your out-of-state contact should be on your list of memorized numbers, too. IF YOUR PHONE IS OUT OR GONE YOU WON”T BE ABLE TO PULL UP NUMBERS FOR AUTOMATIC DIALING.
  • Pick a place for flashlights or emergency lights and make it a game to find every one. Try to keep the lights in their assigned places so you could find them in the dark.
  • Make sure your child can prepare a simple (uncooked) meal while she’s waiting, or get to an emergency snack. This simple job will be reassuringly normal.
  • Practice making phone calls using a variety of phones.
  • Build family go-bags together. Right on top: SHOES (and then a flashlight). Stash the bags in an appropriate place.
  • Grab your go-bag and take a walk to your “safe place” (assembly point) outside the house or further away in the neighborhood. Have the child lead the way. Take the walk again, in the dark.
  • Practice communicating using walkie talkies.

Add more skills as your child gets older.

Schools train children on some of the basics. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have emergency preparedness and first aid training, too. FEMA and CERT offer programs especially for high-school-aged children.

If you take your kids camping, that’s a perfect time to practice a whole other group of survival skills: building a fire, understanding how to build a shelter, knowing when it’s safe to drink water, “capturing” water using a plastic bag over a branch, tying knots, using tools, administering basic first aid, reading a compass, etc.

If you are looking for more info on preparing children, consider these resources:

www.fema.gov/children-and-disasters

This page lists a whole collection of resources aimed at different age levels and different audiences (for example, educators, social services, etc.). Some of the programs are co-sponsored by Ready.gov, the Red Cross, Dept. of Education, etc.

https://www.ready.gov

This easily accessible site has good descriptions of what to expect in a particular type of emergency (hurricane, tornado, etc.) and helpful suggestions for building a go-bag. (Don’t forget our Emergency Plan Guide booklet on how to build customized bags.)

The KIDS section at Ready.gov offers a series of simple comic books with accompanying tips for parents and educators.

http://www.savethechildren.org  Resources at this site include some downloadable checklists for parents and for child care professionals. The checklists might be appropriate for members of your emergency response group, too.

In summary . . .

Grab some of the resources listed here, and build disaster preparedness and response reminders and actions into your daily family routines. Add new “content” as your children get older.

Disasters will happen.

Unless you have prepared your children to take action without you being there to tell them what to do . . . they are more likely to be hurt, trapped or at the very least, traumatized.

Protecting your children from disasters isn’t as good as preparing them to get through successfully.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

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