With school fast approaching, parents are busy preparing for classes- whether it be preschool or high school. But what about preparing for emergencies at home and at school?
Disaster can strike at any time, leaving communities vulnerable and shaken. While adults often receive training on disaster preparedness and are generally more emotionally capable of dealing with stressful events, it is especially crucial to educate children on these matters and to acknowledge that fear is natural to feel. Teach them coping strategies to manage fear, anxiety, or stress. Encourage open communication and active listening during and after emergencies. Offer comfort and reassurance to help them process their emotions. By providing a safe space for children to express themselves, we can strengthen their resilience and emotional well-being. Involving your children in preparation not only instills more confidence during these stressful times and gives them a sense of direction and empowerment in the case of disaster. This empowerment is especially relevant with teens who may be assisting with caring for younger children, and who also should be gaining more responsibility and life skills where possible to in preparation of when they leave the nest.
Opening the Discussion
Just like discussing any other “Difficult Subject Matter” with your child, the key to teaching your child emergency preparedness is age-appropriate language. As soon as your child is old enough to be learning their ABCs and numbers, they are old enough to start learning what to do in emergencies- whether power outages or tornadoes. Not discussing the risks in your area causes them to be even more stressful if, and when, they do occur. Do not teach all disasters in one day however, it will be overwhelming!
Make your lessons understandable and encourage questions from your children, and do not dismiss them. Use fun kid-friendly videos, books, games, and other resources to make your discussions more engaging. Safewise, a US-based security company has compiled a great list of resources that can be found here. Tailor lessons to your child’s maturity level and age-group, you do not want to overwhelm your little ones. Teach your local risks, and focus on the most relevant aspects, such as knowing emergency contacts and where to find the information, recognizing warning signs, and understanding safe places to go during a disaster. As children grow older, discussions can delve deeper into different types of disasters and appropriate response strategies. If your child asks questions that you may feel are “too scary”- do not dismiss them, if you need to figure out a way of answering them in an age-appropriate way, acknowledge the question and look up a way to answer it in a positive manner and come back to it. With knowledge comes confidence, and as we always say: “Be Prepared, Not Scared.”
The Importance of Preparedness Plans and Practicing
Make an emergency plan for your family, with your family. Get Prepared Canada has a downloadable PDF for a household preparedness guide that can be filled out together, and most provinces have similar printed handouts in public activity centers such as pools or that can be ordered for free online. It only takes about 20 minutes to make an emergency plan.
Children need to be aware of the family’s disaster preparedness plan, and repetition is key to learning. Every few months to annually, discuss evacuation routes, rendezvous points, and communication procedures. Your family may not be together in the event of an emergency. Plan how to meet or contact one another and discuss what to do in different situations. Keep a copy of the plan with contact numbers in your child’s backpack with other important documents such as a copy of their birth certificate and medical information and pictures of their loved ones.
For emergencies at home, discuss with your child when to evacuate and when to shelter in place. Have your children either draw the layout of your house on graph paper, or use a colouring sheet, and figure out the ways to get out of the home via different routes, and where the outside exits and emergency kits are, and label the outside meeting place. Discuss what routes are fastest and why, and what to do if one route is blocked. Practice evacuation plans, and other various disaster situations, and repeat with variations. If you live in an apartment, make sure that your route does not involve elevators.
Engaging your children
Involve your child in checking your emergency kit annually. Encourage them to participate in creating a small kit of their own to be responsible for with some extra supplies, and some favourite toys and games, but make sure it’s light enough that they can carry it. Having activities available for your child during an emergency is a great way to keep their minds occupied- but do ensure that these do not require electricity. Engaging children in these activities not only teaches practical skills but also helps them feel involved and in control during times of crisis.
practicing what to do during a disaster is crucial in helping children remember and internalize the necessary actions. Conduct regular drills for different types of emergencies, such as fire drills, earthquake drills, or tornado drills. These simulations can be fun and educational, turning preparation into a game while reinforcing the right behaviors to follow in real-life situations.
For emergencies at school, ask about the school or daycare’s emergency policies. Find out how they will contact families during an emergency, and what authorization the school or daycare requires to release your child to a designated person if you cannot pick them up. Some schools require parents to provide an emergency supply kit for their children, some schools will provide these supplies themselves. We carry a variety of emergency kits and comfort kits. If you are a member of a PAC or school faculty, we do offer institutional discounts and fundraiser opportunities, please do not hesitate to contact us!
Understanding Community Resources
It is up to you to provide for your family in an emergency but do familiarize children with local emergency services and resources available in the community. Explain how these people will help support them in a disaster. Show them where to seek shelter in public buildings or designated safe zones in their neighborhoods. Introduce them to first responders or local volunteers who play essential roles during emergencies. Understanding the support network within their community will give children a sense of security and trust.
Preparing children for disasters is not just about imparting knowledge; it is about building resilience and confidence in their abilities to face challenges. By engaging in age-appropriate discussions, practicing drills, and fostering emotional support, children can become active participants in their own safety. Educators, parents, and communities must work together to equip the younger generation with the tools they need to navigate through emergencies successfully. By doing so, we ensure a safer and more resilient future for all.