How to Involve Your Children in Emergency Planning

How to Involve Your Children in Emergency Planning

It is important to involve children in emergency planning, so that if one occurs, they may be less frightened and can help. A good way to start is to teach your child the difference between an emergency and a problem. Experts suggest telling young children that an emergency is an unusual event that may cause damage to things like houses and cars, and also may hurt people. A simple explanation for natural disasters such as a tornado is to say that nature can produce too much rain, wind, or snow. Explain that nature is powerful and can cause a loss of electricity, water, or telephone service; flooded roads; and trees that are uprooted from the soil.

Teach Children When to Call 911

It is not an uncommon occurrence to hear stories on the news about toddlers dialing 911 and saving parents who are hurt or unconscious. It is an easy number to dial, but it is important to teach children what constitutes an emergency so they do not dial 911 erroneously. Make sure they understand that calling 911 as a joke is a crime in many towns. Show them how to dial 911 and tell them that only very serious events such as the following warrant calling emergency assistance.

  • A house fire
  • Burglary or theft in progress
  • A sign that someone broke into the house
  • A medical emergency, such as a person being unresponsive or bleeding profusely

Create a Communication Plan

  • When a child is around the age of 5, you can teach him or her to memorize at least one parent’s cell phone number. Once they have their own cell phone, all important numbers should be saved on the child’s phone.
  • Select an out-of-state contact who can serve as a resource in case of emergencies.
  • Choose a local location near your home where your family can meet—such a park, school, or shelter. Go with your child to the site so that he or she will be able to go there alone in an emergency.
  • Select a trusted friend or family member who can pick your child up at daycare or school, in case a disaster prevents you from doing so. You need to share this person’s name with the facility, otherwise they will not be allowed to pick up your child.
  • Include contact names, your emergency location, and the out-of-state contact number on a card for all adults to put in their wallets. Discuss this with your child and give them the same card, which they can place in a zippered pocket of a backpack.
  • Share your plan with caregivers and teachers at your child’s daycare or school.

The Silver Lining in Texting

If you are like most parents, you have probably been annoyed at one time or another by an older child’s incessant texting. If you think about it in different terms, texting can be a lifesaver during emergencies. A natural disaster can often hit during the day when family members are separated from one another. You may be at work and your child may be at school, so encourage your child to text you if an emergency arises, unless he or she is in immediate danger. And you can also text your child’s school or daycare to make sure he or she is secure and safe in the building. Sending a text message is often the quickest, most reliable way of getting through to somebody during emergencies. Texting does not tie up phones lines needed by emergency responders including 911.


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