Talk About Your Plans
Children know there are threats in the world. Ignoring this doesn't necessarily help. Kids can feel comforted by knowing that there's a plan for dealing with emergencies.
There are age-appropriate ways to involve children in preparedness. When you involve kids in getting your family ready, you ensure that they understand the family plan. You also give them confidence and help them build important life skills.
Even before children can speak, involve them in drills and model preparedness behavior. Make sure your home is a safe place.
- Keep smoke alarms in working order.
- Do a hazard hunt, and secure items that could fall during an earthquake.
- Have a "go bag" ready in case you need to evacuate. Include feeding and diapering supplies.
As children grow older, start talking to them about how to stay safe.
- Teach them where to go if they get lost and how to call for help, including how to call 9-1-1. Keep emergency phone numbers where everyone can find them, such as on the refrigerator.
- Help them understand that firefighters, police officers, paramedics, and other emergency officials are there to help them.
- Teach them how to recite their name, their parents' name(s), and their home address.
- Let them help test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Let them help change the batteries when needed. Discuss what to do if the alarms go off, and practice evacuating the house. Model good behavior - don't teach them to ignore alarms!
- Explain that sometimes nature provides “too much of a good thing,” like fire, rain, or wind. Talk about what could happen during a storm, like the the lights not working.
- Teach them to drop/cover/hold during an earthquake. After each drill, follow your family emergency plan. Walk to your meeting spaces and check on your emergency kits. Have fun with it, and do it at least twice a year.
- Let them help with a hazard hunt in your home.
- Get them their own backpack and have them assemble a kit for themselves. It should include your family emergency plan, basic supplies, and a comfort item.
- Let them help create a family “password” or phrase to prevent them from going with a stranger.
Keep engaging them in discussions and activities.
- Challenge them to memorize your out-of-area contact info.
- Talk about the science and history of natural disasters. Learn about hazards in your area.
- Teach them to use an AM/FM radio.
- Help them see the value (and fun) of outdoor survival skills.
- Show them where the fire extinguisher is and how to use it.
- Show them where gas and water shut-off valves are located, and teach them how to turn off utilities.
- Test your family's emergency kits by not using power or water from the tap for 48 hours. Talk to your kids about how you can improve your emergency kits based on what you learned.
- Let older kids with phones download preparedness apps, such as Red Cross's First Aid and emergency apps, FEMA, WISER, ICE Medical Standard.
- Older kids can get trained in CPR/First Aid, Babysitting, Wilderness First Aid, Community Emergency Response Teams, Search and Rescue, Amateur Radio, etc.
- Ask what they've learned at school. Sometimes they know more about this than we do!
Visit Parents4Preparedness for more info and resources, including recommendations for books, games, and other educational activities.
Know How to Help Kids Cope
Know How to Talk to Kids After a Disaster
While it's not pleasant to think about, your child may at some point need you to help them cope with a disaster. Learn how to support them now - when your head is clear and you are not stressed.
Children respond differently to disasters than adults. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if or how severely they have been affected. Some may not exhibit signs of distress for weeks to months after a disaster, while some may never show such signs. It’s important for caregivers to closely observe children’s behavior and provide them with support as soon as possible. The Red Cross provides information about common signs of distress and ways caregivers can help children cope.
Help Schools Prepare
Ask your children's school, preschool, or daycare how they're preparing for a major emergency, such as a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.
- Is the building seismically secure?
- Have they done a school hazard hunt?
- Do they do drills? Do they talk with children about why they do drills?
- Is there a plan for how to care for children if parents/guardians are unable to get there quickly?
Direct school administrators and staff to the following resources:
- Safer, Stronger, Smarter: A Guide to Improving School Natural Hazard Safety (FEMA)
- Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans (Dept of Ed)
- Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Institutions of Higher Education (FEMA)
- Earthquake Preparedness Resources for Educators (P4P)
Do a School Hazard Hunt
Hands-on activities are a great way to help young people learn preparedness. While it's useful to do a home hazard hunt, it's also a good idea to do it at school. The FEMA Earthquake School Hazard Hunt Video Game engages young children to learn about earthquake hazard mitigation. Players explore an animated school to identify hazards and tools they can use to mitigate the hazards. You can download the game files for Macintosh and PC computers.
Volunteer If You Can
The more involved you are with your child’s school, the more you will understand its practices and how to help. Consider joining your school's Parent Teacher Organization/Association (PTO or PTA). If there's isn't already an Earthquake Safety Committee, start one. Check out Parents4Preparedness for resources and support.