Tips For Emergency Planning With Your Children
As hard as it is to think about, it’s important to plan for emergency situations with your children. They need to know what to do in case a natural or manmade disaster happens, or what to do if the adult taking care of them has a dangerous health issue and can’t call for help. There will be situations where they might not be with you when a natural disaster or other emergency situation occurs, and they’ll need to know what to do or how to get to you. Even in situations where you’re there, you might not always be able to get to them easily, for example, if a fire is blocking the way.
Have a plan
Having an emergency plan for kids is essential. Know what natural disasters occur most often in your area. Develop a specific and detailed plan for each possible occurrence. Know how best to respond to any natural disaster situations. For instance, in the event of a tornado you must head inside and go down to the lowest floor you can get to and stay away from windows and doors. Fires: head to the nearest exit and beware of smoke inhalation. For adults: who will be responsible for getting which child to safety? If both parents automatically run to grab the baby, no one’s getting the toddler, and that causes you to lose precious moments of time which matter during a high stakes situation.
Ensure your child knows the nearest exit in relation to each room for situations where leaving is the best option, such as a fire or intruder. Designate a room as your safe room for situations such as an intruder (police advise not to confront the intruder, but to lock yourself quietly in a room until help arrives or the person leaves) or for tornadoes (choose a room that is separated from the outside by as many walls as possible, one that ideally has no windows).
Your child should know what to do if the adult taking care of them has a health emergency and is unable to get help themselves. They should know to call 911, and should know their address to give out to the dispatcher taking the call.
Know what to do for other natural disasters even if they almost never occur in your area. You never know. The recent outbreak of tornadoes and tornado warnings across the U.S., even in places that virtually never experience them, is evidence that it’s important to plan for every eventuality, no matter how slim the chances. We have written specifically on fire safety for kids and earthquake safety for kids, including how to plan and what to do if one occurs.
Planning is all well and good, but actually carrying out these plans is another thing altogether. Hold emergency drills with family members so that everyone is familiar with what they should do for each possible emergency situation. Ensure your child knows which emergency you’re planning for each time. Make it “fun” and less scary by making a race out of it to see who can get to safety quickest and trying to beat your previous records.
For calling 911, make sure your child knows how to navigate to the call feature on your cell phone, and how to unlock your phone if it has a password. Ensure your child memorizes at least one trusted adult’s phone number as well as their own address in case of separation after a disaster.
With a little planning and holding drills, your family will ALL feel more confident and prepared for emergency situations. For help with specific emergency situations, ready.gov has a great section specifically with child safety tips for parents.