Home emergency preparedness plans for children

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How to teach children your home emergency preparedness plan

  1. In creating a home emergency preparedness plan for children, first explain what is and what isn’t an emergency.
  2. Give a lesson in 911.
  3. Create – and practice – your plan using various scenarios with your kids.
  4. Add a trustworthy neighbor.

Creating a home emergency preparedness plan for children is sound parenting. It will teach them valuable skills and give you peace of mind, knowing your kids can act appropriately in the face of disaster.

However, readying your little ones for emergencies can be tricky. They may be too young to understand the dangers and what’s at stake during urgent situations. As a parent, it’s your job to determine how to make them interested and remember your emergency plans. Here are seven tips to help you create a solid, usable home emergency preparedness plan for children.

1.  Teach possible emergencies

Talk to your children about the relevant natural hazards in your area. For example, if you live in a storm-prone place like Mobile, Alabama — which gets about 66 inches of rain yearly — prioritize tropical storms and hurricanes. In addition, chat with them about medical emergencies, power outages and house fires.

Explain to your kids in age-appropriate terms what these issues are and why they occur. You may introduce the emergencies in one sitting but have separate conversations for each topic, if you want to go beyond the basics.

Remove all distractions from the room to set the stage for the discussion. You want your children to focus, so eliminate unnecessary stimuli that may affect their concentration.

Speak in plain language and exclude complex concepts so your little ones can absorb what they need to know. Although the subject is serious, make it light to make their learning experience fun and engaging. Create an environment where your kids can ask questions. They’re naturally curious, so they may want to know more.

Use visual aids to communicate your message more effectively. Images and videos can help you express with fewer words and without convoluted explanations. You may use child-friendly real media to show accurate examples without exposing your young ones to sensitive details.

Assess their knowledge. It’s great when they can identify the different emergencies in one fell swoop, but be patient if they need more time to digest what they learned.

Related: How to prepare for an emergency before it happens

2.  Give a lesson in 911

Knowing how to call or text 911 is essential in your home emergency preparedness plan for children. Here’s how to introduce this 24-hour service to your kids:

  • Explain when to use it: Tell your children they should contact 911 only when someone is in danger or severely hurt and no adult is around. Determining whether a situation is an emergency can be difficult for them, so give straightforward clues — like when someone’s lying motionless on the ground.
  • Tell them to ask for help: Advise them to listen to the operator and prepare them for questions like “What’s your emergency? Where do you live? Where are your parents?” The person on the line may ask for information to understand what’s happening, so tell your young ones to answer honestly. Teach them keywords like “ambulance” and “police” and match them to specific situations so they’ll know.
  • Show how to dial: Pressing the keys is simple, but instruct them on what devices they can use to make a call and how to access the emergency call feature on a locked phone.
  • Describe where they should be: Illustrate situations where it’s safe to call 911. Provide examples of unsafe conditions and tell them what to do before they can dial. For instance, advise them to leave the house using an egress window in case of fire.

Your kids may find your instructions overwhelming, but reassure them that using this service is easy and they can do it. They can even text a message to 911 instead if they’re more comfortable asking for help this way.

3.  Make a home emergency preparedness plan for children together

Involve your young ones in disaster preparedness activities to help familiarize them with what to do if something unexpected happens — like when a carbon monoxide alarm goes off or an earthquake occurs. Keeping them in the loop can be empowering to them. Knowing there are plans in place can put them at ease, encourage them to cooperate and help them act decisively when the moment comes.

Go survival gear shopping with them. Buying and packing supplies are a fun task to bond together and a fantastic opportunity to teach about the merits of having emergency kits.

Related: 8 common home safety hazards and fixes

4.  Introduce helpful neighbors

Are you friends with your neighbors? Ask if they could be part of your emergency readiness strategy. Having trustworthy adult figures outside your family can reassure your children. Knowing they can count on other community members helps build their confidence.

Drop by your neighbors’ houses with your little ones so they meet the people they can trust in the neighborhood. If your kids go to school, ask their teachers to play this role. If you have relatives living nearby, ask them if they can help in an emergency.

Get their contact information and share yours with them. Be ready to return the favor to make everyone’s home emergency preparedness plans more effective.

5.  Practice likely scenarios

Role-play hypothetical emergencies with your kids. This activity is an excellent way to see whether they can apply what you taught them and remind them what to do when they forget or make mistakes.

Practice as many unfamiliar or complex scenarios as possible until they remember what to do when there’s a storm warning, someone’s injured in the house or a stranger knocking on the door. This is crucial to your home emergency preparedness plan for children. Your young ones will only improve as you do more role-plays, sharpening their risk assessment and decision-making skills over time.

Related: How to prevent home electrical fires

6.  Invite responders home

Ask your local police and fire departments and emergency medical services agency if they could come to your home and talk to your kids. Allowing your little ones to meet who they may speak with on the phone when they dial 911 can make them feel more comfortable about calling. First responders may offer additional advice on what to do in an emergency and answer complex questions your children may have.

7.  Set regular refreshers

Remind your kids about what you taught them every now and then. Schedule regular practices every six months until emergency readiness becomes second nature. In every session, come up with new scenarios to test their critical thinking and help them deal with strange situations.

Raise emergency-prepared children

Home emergency preparedness is a never-ending pursuit. Do everything you can to teach and train your little ones to act responsibly and independently during unpleasant situations. They’ll thank you for arming them with knowledge and skills to keep them and everyone they love safe.