Parenting: Family disaster plan

David Murphy says putting together an emergency preparedness kit should be a family affair.

David Murphy reports: The federal government is reminding families that kids are an important consideration when making emergency preparations.
October 5, 2011 6:16:52 AM PDT
I'm a little late on this because September was actually National Preparedness Month, but an item was just sent to me from the American Meteorological Society last week, and the information is evergreen.

I'll start by including a link to a FEMA news release on the subject which includes all the details, but here's the skinny: involve your kids in any and all emergency planning. Why? The government says it gives your children a sense of self-control and actually better prepares them for trouble, in case it happens. Also, it gives you a chance as a parent to talk about emergencies a family might face (fire, flood, blizzard, tornado, act of terrorism etc.) in a way that's age-appropriate and coming from the people they probably trust the most. Kids are naturally concerned with these things (I've had first-hand experience with this talking to young school groups about weather-related problems), but talking about them calmly and casually before there's an issue can lessen their fear.

Then, it's down to business. This next FEMA link has details on putting together a family "Go Bag" with items like water, food, batteries, Band Aids and even a whistle. You can make a game of gathering these things, a scavenger hunt at home or at the store.

In Friends We Trust

If you're putting together a list of emergency contacts in the event the family gets separated (both at home or, say, while on vacation), make sure you pick people your kids know and trust, so that they won't hesitate to make the contact. And use the planning exercise as a chance to teach your kids, even the youngest, how to send a text message. Practice makes perfect on this score.

Talk to your kids about where to turn for information during an emergency, both online and on TV and radio. Give them an idea of how things unfold when there's an emergency happening, and while you're at it, give a shout to your local municipality to learn who to turn to for localized information in the wake of an emergency. You don't want to be suddenly faced with a haz-mat release in your neighborhood, for example, with no clue as to how to find good, useful information.

Much Ado About Nothing?

One thing to drive home to kids---and I do this when I'm giving those talks to young school kids---is that most families will never have to actually deal with a major emergency. The chance of any one individual house being hit by a tornado, for example, is minuscule. But when trouble does strike, it's the people who have thought about what to do and how to react ahead of time who usually end-up in the best shape.

And that includes adults and kids.

---David Murphy

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