|Preparing your children for an emergency|
Whenever a hurricane threatens a community, the parents and grandparents get very busy with hurricane preparations. Kids are often fearful and have their own hurricane preparations to make.
It is important to take the time to explain to children what a hurricane is and what they need to know to be just as prepared as an adult. The more children know about the storm and safety procedures, the more confident they will be. But keep it simple — detailed information is useless if children can’t digest it.
Start out by explaining to your children that a hurricane is a giant, rainy windstorm, destructive and dangerous, but survivable with preparation and precaution.
Younger children may have trouble understanding the idea of a hurricane. Talk to them instead about its effects. They need to know that a hurricane can destroy homes and leave families without food, water and electricity.
Ask children, whatever their age, to make a list of what they do during a typical day. Explain to them that those activities might change if a hurricane hits: School might close; they may not get to play outside; they may have to eat different foods.
It’s important for children to feel they are a part of the preparations. Allow children to help plan and pack safety kits, help check hurricane shutters, make preparations for their pets.
Children should be reminded of their hurricane lessons throughout the year. A crash course in hurricanes only hours before one arrives may cause children to panic.
One safety expert says, “Be prepared and have a plan.”
“The best thing parents and guardians can do is make sure everyone in the family is part of the plan,” says Nancy McBride, National Safety Director for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “Know the names and addresses of babysitters or friends your children may be with at the time of the disaster or evacuation. And take your address book with you when you leave, along with the family photos.”
Also important is to be sure that each child has identification with them.
Photo IDs should have the name, address, birth date, medical information and home phone number of the person carrying it. Also include phone numbers of relatives, in and out of state.
Experts also advise carrying current photos of your children, especially if you evacuate. Give relatives outside the area (or other emergency contacts) photos, dates of birth, medical and other essential information. Coach children, if old enough, on whom to contact in case you are separated.
If forced to evacuate your home, engage children in a game of “What do I look like?” Have your child describe what you look like and what you’re wearing.
If leaving the home, note how the child is dressed. This may seem obvious, but often we forget these things in stressful situations. And recognize that children may be fearful and agitated, and take steps to reassure them that you will help them cope with the situation.