What Children Need to Know About Preparedness

Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,

Some parents and grandparents don’t discuss preparedness issues until the kids are in bed because they don’t believe children should have to worry about such things.

They’re right when they say the young ones shouldn’t worry about it but wrong for excluding kids from the conversation, assuming they are old enough to understand.

Like adults, children will do much better in a crisis if they’re prepared for it. Here are some core principles to teach children to prepare them for coping with an emergency:

What Is an Emergency?

Calmly explain that an emergency is when something happens that we don’t expect and we have to act quickly to keep ourselves safe. It can be a storm, an overflowing river or a power outage. In some emergencies, we can stay safe in place, while in others we might have to leave and go to a safe place.


Sirens and Lights

Flashing lights and loud sirens mean help is near. The people driving ambulances, fire trucks and police cars help us in emergencies. The vehicles are bright and loud so that they can be seen and heard from far away.


Know Whole Names

Teach young children their whole name and the whole names of caregivers. If you and your child become separated, they can share this information with trusted adults to help reach you.


Address and Phone

Helping your child memorize your phone number and address can quickly reunite your family. They might learn it to a song. If the address eludes them, another technique is to be able to name the nearest popular landmark to your home, such as a church, store or other distinctive public building. Rescuers can quickly get close and drive through the neighborhood until your child recognizes home.


Emergency Friends

There are people who will help keep us safe in an emergency. Police officers, firefighters, emergency responders, teachers and doctors all can help. Schools, churches, police and fire stations, government buildings and hospitals are safe places.


Emergency Contacts

Choose local and out-of-town emergency contacts. A local contact can help with tasks such as picking up children from child care facilities. An out-of-town contact may not be impacted by the emergency and can make sure you are all OK. Sometimes in emergencies it is easier to make long-distance than local calls.


Where to Meet

Select a central emergency meeting place where the family can gather if you can’t make it home.


Family Emergency Plan

This is a document for the family emergency kit and their everyday backpack. Teach them that this is information to be shared only with our emergency friends.

The plan lists each family member by full name and should include their home, work and school addresses and phone numbers, email addresses, local emergency contacts, out-of-town contacts and the family meeting place.


Preparedness Activities

Getting children and grandchildren involved in preparedness activities — assuming they are old enough to understand without become frightened — is a great idea. It will help them better respond when the times comes.

One of the ways to bring kids into the process can be turned into a fun family project. It involves packing a family emergency kit in a sturdy box or bag. Keep the kit in a location everyone knows. Store items in waterproof plastic bags. Replace water, batteries and clothing every six months.

Let your child or grandchild decorate it and gather items on a list such as the one below:

  • Copies of your family emergency plan
  • Minimum of $200 in cash and coins
  • Copies of family health records, list of prescriptions and dosages, insurance cards
  • First-aid kit and prescription medicines
  • Three-day supply of dry and canned food and a manual can opener
  • Water (*see below)
  • Battery or hand-crank radio
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Pet supplies
  • Spare car and house keys
  • Blankets
  • Paper plates and utensils
  • Trash bags
  • Moist towelettes
  • Change of clothes, rain gear and sturdy shoes or boots
  • Sunscreen and bug spray
  • Diapers
  • One comforting stuffed animal or toy per child
  • Travel-sized toys, crafts or a book.

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