Posts Tagged ‘children’

How prepared is your child?

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

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:

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, the Red Cross, Dept. of Education, etc.

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 offers a series of simple comic books with accompanying tips for parents and educators.  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.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team


Neighborhood Preparedness Faire — Lessons Learned

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

As part of National Preparedness Month, Joe and I staffed a booth at a local neighborhood Emergency Preparedness Faire on Sunday. It was held in a street that ends in a cul de sac, and we were one of about 20 different organizations trying to raise awareness among folks in this neighborhood.

How effective was it?

How effective was it?

Generous Support from Local Agencies

The police department was there with two cars and a child fingerprinting set-up; the fire department brought one of its engines and let kids crawl into the cab. The gas company was demonstrating utility shut-offs, and the electric company had a truly terrifying display (aimed at children!) that zapped when its puppet people approached a live overhead wire.

Other booths sold emergency supplies, first aid supplies, and ice cream. There was even a display of how to splint a broken arm using newspapers.

Reactions from Neighborhood Residents

We were there helping sign people up for the next Community Emergency Response Training class, and to talk with passers-by about emergency supplies. Here’s what we discovered:

  • The word “emergency” evoked no response other than glazing of the eyes – even though these people had come knowing this event was supposed to be about emergency preparedness.
  • The word “survival” worked much better. Particularly when we asked, “Do you have a survival kit? In the car?” (This is southern California, where everybody commutes.)
  • The best response came from the children. When we asked, “What do you do in an earthquake?” the kids all responded automatically, “Drop, cover and hold on.” Their parents looked on in wonder.

Some percentage of the people absolutely would not approach our tent; they just smiled and kept walking. (You gotta ask yourself, why did they even show up? Well, it was a beautiful day, and there was music and balloons . . .)

Recommendations from the Field

1. Children —  Many of the families had children, and those booths that had something for children fared the best.

2. Mystery — In our booth, where we talked about the need for a survival kit, I pulled items one by one out of a backpack to show them. Again, children were eager to see what would come out next.  They were most interested in the space blanket, the solar-powered/crank radio, the whistles and the LifeStraw. They actually asked questions while the parent/s looked on.

3. Give-aways — A number of people didn’t seem to have time to actually talk about their preparedness, or our display, but they happily took one of our postcards that listed our website for more info.

At the end of the day, we had accomplished a number of things, including making an excellent connection with the local newspaper reporter and his photographer. We were again reminded about how difficult the “preparedness message” is to deliver.

But if we got just a half-dozen families to take action, that’s more people who will stay alive and survive when the big one hits. So, was it worth it? You bet.

Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

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Mothers, Are You Leaving Your Children Unprepared?

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Children Deserve Survival Training

When there’s an emergency, whether storm, earthquake, flooding, or power outage – children go though it just like you do. How prepared are your children to survive? How about your grandchildren?

Children prepared for an emergency

How prepared are these kids to respond in an emergency?

Little ones may not understand the potential danger of a storm or other emergency, and perhaps they don’t need to. But they CAN be prepared to take action when they recognize certain warning signs.

Emergency Preparedness at School

These days all schools have access to emergency preparedness training through FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Education. (Just search for “Emergency Preparedness for Schools” on their websites.) Most schools have and practice emergency procedures.

In fact, our grandchildren (aged 10 and 13) seem to know more about how to respond in an earthquake than their parents do!

However, take these children out of the school setting, and they have no experience in taking care of themselves. These are children who have grown up in the suburbs. They’ve never spent time in the wilderness, never used tools, never hiked more than a couple of blocks! (Don’t get me wrong. They’re smart, and getting a great education. But it doesn’t include any survival skills!)

Action Step: Find out what Emergency Preparedness training your children’s teachers go through, and what drills they and the children participate in. It may reassure you!

What about survival training for younger children?

If your children are home with you all the time, then naturally you will be making decisions for them in the case of an emergency.

Still, you may not be with them all the time! What if the storm hits when your child is:

  • At a day-care center
  • On a play date at a friend’s house
  • At a birthday party or an athletic event where other adults are in charge
  • At the movies, at Sunday school, playing in the backyard – the list is endless!

You simply can’t be with your children 24 hours a day. So, what survival skills are you giving them?

A simple emergency preparedness tool for starters!

In 1993, FEMA and the American Red Cross put together a Coloring Book for Children. (Yes, it was created in 1993, so the illustrations are pretty dated . . . but I feel that overall, the coloring book has value.)

Here are five highlights from the coloring book, as I see them:

  1. Work together.  The book is designed to be worked on by an adult and child team. Do you have older children who would find the coloring book silly? Let them be the “adult” in the conversation with the younger child.
  2. Call 911. Use the coloring book as a tool to teach your child when and how to call 911.
  3. Family emergency plan. If you haven’t done it yet, use the book as a motivation to identify your “outside meeting place” and your “out-of-area” emergency contact person.
  4. Survival kits. Discuss – and build! – emergency supply kits for each family member.
  5. Repeat.  The quiz on the last page is a good review.

Action Item: Here’s the link to the book. Click on it and print out the book. It’s 26 pages long, so you probably won’t be going through it all in one sitting.

Click to download Coloring Book

(Here’s the entire link again, in case you need it:

I think this coloring book could be improved by being brought up to date. In fact, I’m ready to do a new version myself, because it seems as though young children still like to color. What suggestions do you have for improving it? Please let me know by using the comment box below.

Thank you!

Virginia – Your Emergency Response Guide Team