Gaye Levy, Contributing Writer
Something I have not given much thought to is how to deal with survival and preparedness matters when there are young children in the household. Perhaps it was watching the children on Doomsday Preppers that set me on this path, or perhaps it was just something I started thinking about on my own.
Whatever the reason, I have always treated young children as mini-adults, able to rationalize and understand and feel the emotions and body language of the adults around them. And I love kids. Even though I don’t have any of my own, I recognize and love that they are fresh and unspoiled by life and its failures. For no other reason, I wish to share my thoughts on preparedness for families with little ones under the roof.
Dozen Preparedness Tips for Families
1. Include children in family preparedness discussions. Explain what you are talking about in a calm, assured manner and answer questions honestly and simply. Focus the conversation on the safety issues that will ensure their survival.
2. Regardless of their age, teach young children to memorize their basic personal information such as full name, address, telephone number, and the names of their parents or guardians. This will be invaluable in the event they become separated from their family following a disaster.
3. Learn the disaster response policies of you child’s school or daycare center. Be sure to establish a backup plan so that someone is available to pick them up and/or care for them if you are unable to do so. A good idea would be to have the backup person check on them, regardless, just to be sure. (After all, you may be hurt and unable to call the backup person yourself.)
4. Make sure the school or daycare center always has current emergency contact information for your children. They should also have a list of persons authorized to pick your children up from school. The last thing you want is for a kidnapper to take advantage of the chaos and snatch your child away for some nefarious reason.
5. Establish more than one family meeting site and make sure you child knows where it is. This will help if you can not return to your home.
6. Establish an out-of-state contact person and make sure that your child and the school knows how to reach this person. Remember that although local phone lines may be down, long-distance circuits often will be working following a disaster.
7. Teach your children how to use 9-1-1 and practice what they should say to the dispatcher when they do call.
8. Educate your children regarding the need to stay away from downed trees, downed utility poles and any wires that may be lying on the ground. Also teach them to recognize the small of gas and – this is important – to tell an adult they smell gas even if they are not 100% sure. Include instructions to get outdoors and leave the home or building if they even think they smell gas.
9. Practice evacuation strategies and evacuation routes as a family project. Make an outing of it; and while you don’t want to diminish the importance of the practice mission, make it fun as well.
10. If you live in an earthquake or other natural disaster zone teach them basic responses such as Drop, Cover and Hold or Stop, Drop and Roll.
11. Prepare a mini Go-Bag for each child. Include a family picture, a toy, and a game, book or puzzle to keep him or her occupied. Also include some treats.
12. In the adult/family Go-Bag, include copies of the children’s birth certificates, recent photos and additional kiddie comfort foods.
The Final Word
One thing I used to hate when I was a child was the grown-ups talking about something and assuming that I was either not interested; or worse, unable to understand. In reality, I had an innate curiosity and even though I only understood half of what the adults were saying, I still soaked it up like a sponge.
With that in mind, I cannot think of a better situation for including your children than a family discussion about planning for an emergency of survival situation.