Article written by Naomi Broderick
Disasters usually happen when you least expect them to. It’s Murphy’s Law. For adults this usually poses less of a problem than it does for children. The grownups can draw from experience and hopefully have already informed themselves on what to do and where to go in case of an emergency, such as a hurricane. For the most part children aren’t prepared for these things. This can lead to either reckless behavior because they aren’t aware of the danger or to extreme fear of the unfamiliar occurrence. This is something I personally think we can and should change. Here are a few tips on how you can get your children ready for disaster and make the prepping fun too.
Raising Safety Awareness
Protecting your home and your family is the most important thing. Every good lesson starts at the base, in this case at home and with the parents. Children watch us very closely and mimic our actions. It is how we have all learned to speak, to walk and do many other things. Your little ones look up to you and follow your lead. So be a good role model and lead by example. Make sure you close your windows, lock your doors and turn your home security system on when you leave the house. Have your child activate the security system so he/she learns to use it. Explain why it’s important and what could happen if you didn’t have a security system. But be kind, don’t make it a nightmare scenario, just a good dose of reality by examples they can process. For example you could explain that if the security system weren’t on a stranger could come into the house and take the TV with them and if that happened, you couldn’t watch your cartoons. Make sure that they understand in case of a disaster, such as a tornado, you are leaving your home for an indefinite period of time and your neighbors will be doing the same, therefore the risk of burglary is even higher. So don’t forget to arm the home security system on your way out of the house.
Bug Out Bag
In case of a disaster, especially the ones that aren’t predictable, you should have a bug out bag ready, in an easily accessible place. This is something grownups know and have. Does your child? Most people will answer this question with a no. Children’s needs are different than ours and should be taken into consideration. Each child in your house should have their own. Let your child pack their backpack and explain why they are doing this. Make sure they understand that this stays put until it is needed and let them know why. The backpack should be lightweight and contain, aside from a change of clothes, something to entertain them. Children do get bored easily and need diversion. It doesn’t have to be the Gameboy and it doesn’t have to be a lot. A deck of cards or two can entertain your children in many ways. There are a number of child friendly card games and the cards can be used to build card houses and castles and all kinds of neat stuff. A dry erase marker and a piece of white vinyl table cloth can keep them busy drawing and be re-used. A few balloons can be blown up quickly and double as a ball. You should also add a flashlight and some snacks with a long shelf life (i.e. granola bars or dried fruit).These are things that are light and go a long way. You’ll be grateful you have this and so will they.
Escape Routes & Shelters
Make sure you know where the escape routes and shelters in your area are. Show your children where they are and explain what they’re for. Some designated shelters are used for other purposes until they have to be used as one. Schools often double as shelters. Once you know where your closest shelter is take your children there, explain the purpose of a shelter and most importantly decide on a meeting point. If you are separated from your children they have to know where they can find you. Establishing this meeting point now and making sure they know where it is, will help them feel more confident in such a situation. They may be at school and you’re at work when disaster strikes, that’s why it’s important to have this information firmly implanted in their minds now.
Periodically you should stage drills for emergency situations. These can be fun and at the same time impart vital information to your children and keep you on your toes as well. This is also the best way to see if there are flaws in your execution. Have a game plan for any situation. For example you can stage;
- An electricity fall out at night. Just turn the main switch and you will be simulating the situation you want to practice. Everyone should know where the flashlights are and how to reach them. Let your children get a feel for what it’s like being without electricity; leave the lights off until the next day (Once they’re asleep turn the lights back on you don’t want your freezer to thaw).
- An emergency evacuation for a hurricane. Limit the time everyone has to get out of the house and don’t let them take longer. Have everyone grab their bug out bags and actually drive the escape route to your nearest shelter. Since it probably won’t be accessible stay in the car and demonstrate how in these situations you may have to make due with little space and only have what you brought with you.
- A fire in your house. How long does it take you to get out? Time these things, set goals to get better at it. Show children where the fire extinguishers in your house are and how and when to use them. If you have gas show the children where the shut off is and have them practice shutting it off during these drills. Visit a fire station with your children. Firemen will be happy to explain the hazards and what can be done to avoid them and how to react in various situations.
Make a list of the things your child needs to know in case of an emergency, like where are the flashlights, where are the matches, where is the bug out bag and more. Make it a competition if there is more than one child. Make it a game to win prizes, if you have only one child. For example if you are going to ask 10 questions you can offer for;
- 5 -6 correct answers wins an ice cream sundae,
- 7-8 correct answers wins a lunch at their favorite drive thru,
- 9 correct answers you’ll rent their favorite movie and
- 10 correct answers wins them the movie and a sundae.
Can you tell how easy it is to prepare your child for any disaster? The important thing is to keep it playful and repeat it often enough so it sinks in. A prepared child is a much safer child and makes for a much more relaxed and confident parent. Knowing that your child will know exactly what to do in case of an emergency is priceless. Happy Drillercising!
Naomi Broderick is a mother of three and a professional writer. When she’s not juggling her three children in the front yard she writes for Protect Your Home, a leader in home alarm systems.