September is National Preparedness Month. Americans are urged to be proactive and create emergency plans for their homes and businesses. This includes a plan for any emergency or disaster.
Admittedly, just researching this column has triggered some anxiety for us. Ready.gov lists helpful information for 26 types of disasters ranging from a power outage to a nuclear blast. But who can actually prepare and practice plans for 26 types of disasters? And how could we possibly expect our children to prepare for that many emergency situations?
We can’t. First, it would drive us crazy trying. Second, it wouldn’t be psychologically healthy. The American Red Cross recommends evaluating what emergency situations are most likely to occur in your area. For Oklahomans, that is most likely tornadoes, home fires and winter storms.
The best ways your family can be prepared include:
- Building an emergency kit. Some common items to remember are a first aid kit, non-perishable food, batteries, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, a gallon of water per person per day, flashlights, blankets, medications, baby supplies like formula or diapers, sturdy shoes and a whistle to call for help. Some activities such as color books or tablets may be useful to keep younger children busy and distracted.
- Ensuring each family member knows your escape route or shelter. Practice escaping or taking shelter routinely. Explain to your children this is just a precaution. Sometimes knowing your family is prepared can actually help relieve children’s fears rather than exacerbate them.
- Developing a communication plan and meeting place in case your family is scattered during a disaster. Texting can often be better than trying to call during an emergency.
- Familiarizing yourself with your school’s disaster procedures and plans. Ask about pick up plans, shelters, practice drills and how they will communicate with you during and after an emergency.
- Considering your pets and be sure to include them in all your plans.
Remember, disasters are by nature unexpected and scary. Children depend on caregivers to give them guidance. They will watch to see how you are reacting, so try to remain calm. Be confident in your emergency plan, so you can quickly move to safety rather than staying in a state of panic. Validate and comfort any fears your children may have while reassuring them that you are following the plan your family practiced.
For more information about how to talk to kids about disaster preparedness or how to develop a family emergency kit and plan, visit www.Ready.gov/kids or www.RedCross.org.