Preparing Children for a Disaster: A Primer

Preparing Children for a Disaster: A Primer

Growing up in a prepared household these are a few of the tips I learned from my parents about preparing children for a disaster.  I have started to teach my daughter these as well, even though she is 18 months.

#1 – Start teaching them now.
It is never too early to start teaching kids how to be prepared and survive.  My father worked in several types of emergency services and my mother worked with emergency support services as a volunteer.  One of their favorite stories is that by the time I was three, I knew how to use a two-way radio.  When I was five, I could tie a sling to a wounded arm, better than most of the adult students in their first aid classes.  By eight, I could build a snow shelter and make a shelter in the forest.  There are many cases where a small child saved an adult’s life because they were taught what to do at a very early age.

#2 – Practice with your family. Kids need to have things repeated, and repeated, and repeated, and repeated.  Think about how many times they hear the ABCs.  The reason I could do first aid at such a young age was because my parents had to take me with them when they taught classes.  In school, we practice fire drills each month.  The reason is that with practice, it becomes automatic.  Do the same at home when preparing children for a disaster.  Yes, my family had home fire drills, including when friends stayed over.  I even had pop quizzes on emergency information.  Give rewards, verbal or physical, when they do good to encourage them to continue learning.  I had a sticker chart for chores, schoolwork, and emergency stuff.

#3 – Show them that this is important and serious. Show them that you take this seriously by being serious when you talk about being prepared.  It can kind of be made to be fun, but let them know that there is a reason for this information and the reason is that you want them to be safe, because you love them.

There were many times I remember Dad coming home from work and just looking at me and asking me questions like  “If there is a fire, where do you go?”  (Mailbox)  “Do you wait to find Mommy or Daddy?”  (No)  “If someone tries to take you, what do you yell?”  (“I don’t know you”, then “get away from me” as loud as I can.)  “What is the phrase they will tell you if they were sent by us?”  (Something about Dr. Who, it rotated)  or “If someone breaks into the house, what should you do?”  (Dial 911, leave phone off the hook, as I go to my room to hide in my big messy closet, unless I can get out the backdoor).   Even without him telling me, I knew a kid was hurt or died that day because they did not know the answers. My parents really took preparing children for a disaster seriously!

Preparing Children for a Disaster

#4 – Teach them where equipment is in your house
. I can still tell you where the fire extinguisher, first aid kit, band-aids, gauze bandages, roller bandages, and radios were in each of our houses growing up.  I remember one time, while Dad was gone, my mom cut herself badly while pruning.  She came into the house yelling for me, then laid down on the bathroom floor.  I got what was needed and started to apply first aid while making sure she did not go into shock.  I think I was about 10 at the time.

#5 – Make first aid kits and emergency equipment a habit.  While in school, I had a basic first aid kit, safety pins, and flashlight in my backpack.  It was part of my back-to-school supplies.  I have a feeling they were even kept in my diaper bag, although I don’t know for sure.  I know these supplies are in my daughter’s diaper bag, which my daycare provider says is the most organized and prepared bag she has seen.  As an adult, I have the same in my purse, as well as my classroom.  I knew having a fire extinguisher was important, because one was always outside my bedroom door.  This meant that when I went away to college I got one on my first shopping trip.

#6 – Visitors to the house need to know emergency procedures as well.  The first time someone came to spend the night at my house, they were told our emergency meeting place.  As my parents always said, “If they are staying at our house, their safety is our responsibility.”  They were also told what to do if I had low blood sugar, as I am diabetic.

#7 – Your kids will not always be with you. Ask about where they would go if a fire happened while they were spending the night at a friend’s house or at the babysitter’s.  Make them think about how to get out of various locations and where to go so that it becomes a habit.  I tended to ask people where their meeting place was the first time I stayed at someone’s house, so it got them thinking about emergency preparedness as well.

End thoughts

Having a prepared kid doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry.  You are a parent so of course you will worry.  What it does mean is that you will not have to spend valuable time giving directions, which they won’t hear, to a stressed out stubborn kid, when you are stressed yourself.

Hopefully you will never have to find out, but training your kid could save their or someone else’s life.  It will also put a better head on their shoulders when they are away from you.  At the very least, it will give them habits to make them prepared adults. Preparing children for a disaster should be as important as teaching your child how to ride a bike.

Rebecca Amela

Rebecca is a school teacher and has been involved with the American Red Cross and other community preparedness organizations. She is married, has a daughter, a son on the way, and lives in the Northwest. When not teaching, her hobbies include crafts, sewing, and the science fiction genre.

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preparing children for a disaster

  1. What better way for children to learn how to prepare for disasters than through their parents. Parents after all are the first agents of socialization and they're the ones children listen to the most. I think it would be less "heavy" and easy to understand for children if disaster preparedness is introduced to them through fun and games or interactive kiddie programs similar to Dora the Explorer.
    Nicely done! I think it's very important to teach kids, and teach them early. The fact that they will not always be with you is a very good point as well, so they need to know how to stay calm and respond. Good article.
    A really valuable article. You hear so many stories in the news about children saving an adult's life because they were prepared and knew what do do in an emergency. Whilst it's tempting to shield kids from subjects like this, it's actually one of the most important things they could ever learn.
    Preparing children for a disaster means starting early and repeating lessons often. Here are a few tips to help.

    Growing up in a prepared household these are a few of the tips I learned from my parents about preparing...

    Click here to view the article.

    It is never too early to start preparing children for disasters and how they can survive. Children need to have things being repeated over and over so they will not forget just like their ABC's. children practices fire drill every month in school so that they get accustomed to what it is all about. we can do the same when we are at home and also find a safe area to send them to during the drill so in case of a disaster struck they know exactly what to do and where to go for safety. Let them know that you are serious when talking and teaching about drills. Let them know that you love them and you are doing this to keep them safe . At time you can give them a pop quiz and ask questions life if there is a fire do you go looking for mommy or daddy? if a stranger grab you what do you yell or if someone breaks into the house what should you do? this will help them to remember what to do if something did happen.
    Preparing children for a disaster means starting early and repeating lessons often. Here are a few tips to help.

    Growing up in a prepared household these are a few of the tips I learned from my parents about preparing...

    Click here to view the article.

    I think the last line in your post, speaks volumes! When we teach our children about the responsibility of being prepared and thinking safety first, they grow up to be responsible adults.

    Thanks for the link. What caught my interest, was #6 and #7. Sometimes, we get so wrapped up on teaching our children how to be prepared in a familiar surrounding; such as, their home, when in fact children are not always at home.
    This article is very informative and helpful considering the frequent diasters and crimes happening in our country everyday. even schools are not safe places for chldren because there is a growing number of school shooting incidents, so the best thing to do is prepare your children by teaching them what to do in-case such incident happens. It would be great if you write more of such interesting articles.
    Speaking of practicing, I think camping is a good way to make kids prepare for disasters because it awakens the survivor within them. Also kids who goes on camping are usually more disciplined and less sheltered. I also love the tips about teaching them how to do first aid because It is a huge help on making them more calm in emergency situations. It will help them learn how to be calm and collected in times of dangers. Panicking is not a good thing. About number 7, Yes we will be more confident to leave kids at home by them selves if they have all the skills they needed. There were times when parents have to leave kids alone and making them prepared will keep them safe.
    People who have never experienced the destruction due to a disaster usually ignore such advice. They shouldn't.

    It's a great idea to teach people when they are young. Get's ingrained in their gray matter. Loved it!
    I think that it's a good thing to prepare children for disaster. You don't have to scare them but let them know that things do happen that we cant control. Parents should always be teaching their kids these things and not just depend on the schools or tv shows to do it.
    I completely agree with xTinx! It's always easier to learn when you're having fun while doing that. Some things also get taught at school, for example I learned what to do in case of earthquake while there are no earthquakes in the place I live. Well, there are but you have to be exceptionally sensitive to feel them.
    Interesting article!

    The key with children is turning practice drills into games. This way the information is assimilated quickly and no one gets bored.

    As this article illustrates, children have to be prepared but it is important not to overdo it. I don’t believe it is necessary to teach children how to use a fire extinguisher or how to put on a tourniquet for instance. There is a fine line that shouldn’t be crossed – between being prepared and being paranoid.
    In the local school in our place, the faculty had thought of a noble way to teach children how to act during a disaster. They invented a game that would harness the creativity of children. For example, a bring me game would involve water for a fire, blanket for a typhoon, etc. From what I saw, the grade schoolers were very enthusiastic with the game. And when disaster strikes, those children would be like playing a game only. No panic.
    I think that's a good thing. Children need to know certain things but don't scare them. Teach them the basics and how and what to do. Basic knowledge is all you need.
    This thread is very good food for thought. Children are the first and foremost concern of adults in times of disaster. And if the children are prepared in handling the crisis then they can even help the adults in providing moral support. It is normal for a person to panic when faced with a disaster and strong children are big encouragements to their parents.
    Teaching the children could save lives. Many people are dying due to lack of survival techniques and lack of knowledge on what to do during a disaster. Upon reading the article, i even looked up into myself if I am doing most of the activities. What made me think is

    #5 – Make first aid kits and emergency equipment a habit. Its not my habit to prepare med kits for emergency. I would take this up and add this to my life. Thank you, I would share this article on Facebook.
    Thank you for sharing the article. It's very informative especially for parents like me. Most children are eager learners because of their curious nature. Teaching them a thing or two on disaster preparedness can really help a lot when the actual thing happens. There's no particular age as to when to start teaching them. As long as they have the ability to understand you, they can already be taught about things to do during a particular disaster. Starting at home is a plus because parents are children's first teachers.
    When you start with the most basic lessons, they can learn extremely early on! Teaching them how to call 911, for example. Even if they don't know what to say, letting the 911's phone ring will get someone out there for a welfare check. I have epilepsy and my seizures got out of control for a while there. Living in the city, we had plenty of neighbors, and we spoke to all of them. My son, at age 5, knew whose apartment to run to if something happened. He would go in order to Greg's, then Deborah's, and then the neighbor behind us,
    The Pillow Case Project I posted about was along those lines. Preparing and empowering children for disaster situations. I think this should be a mandatory program in all schools. Children and the disabled are the most likely to die or become seriously injured in a crisis. They should be taught from a early age how to protect themselves so that they are safe now and in the future as adults.
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