Recently, I watched a disaster movie. It doesn’t matter which specific one it was—you’ve seen the kind. Just know that it was a “natural disaster and the aftermath” type of movie. Most of the movie was about the parents and two young children trying to get reunited, though when the disaster happened they were all within arm’s reach of each other. I could really feel for the mother in the movie—how awful it would be to not know where my family was, or even whether they were alive!
When a disaster happens – earthquake, tsunami, tornado, etc, it is common for people to get separated from each other and even lost, simply because of the forces of nature. It is important to have some way figured out to help you get reunited. This requires some physical preparation for your child.
We’ve recently talked about the basics of preparing for an emergency when you have children, and also helping your children be prepared emotionally for an emergency. Now let’s talk about helping your child be prepared physically.
Make a Family Emergency Plan
First, you need to have a Family Emergency Plan. Usually, the adults in the family will figure out the plan, but they need to go over it with the children. If your children are old enough to be alone at times, playing in the yard, or at a friend’s house, they are old enough to know the plan.
So what goes into a Family Emergency Plan? At the very least, you should have a plan for where to meet in an emergency like a fire or an earthquake. Everyone should know to meet out on the front lawn, or down at the church at the corner, or something like that. With a certain place selected, the whole family will know where to go to find other family members as quickly as possible.
Another part of the Family Emergency Plan is for everyone to know what to do in an emergency. If your area needs to be prepared for an earthquake, that’s the thing to talk about most, along with things typical of all areas, like fires, etc. You should also talk about what supplies you have stored, and where the supplies are kept. If you need to get out of your home fast, this will help your kids help you.
Also, the Family Emergency Plan can include putting phone numbers for relatives in another area (who are more likely to still have phone service) inside children’s backpacks so that if they get separated from you while they have their backpack on, someone can help them call a relative. If your child is too young to use a backpack or be able to tell someone their name, you might consider getting them a bracelet to wear all the time that has contact numbers on it for in the event of a separation from parents.
Practice the Plan
It isn’t enough to just talk about the family plan once or twice. Children, and adults, too, benefit from repetition. It makes it much easier to remember the plan if you’ve practiced what to do. Remember when you were in school growing up? Periodically throughout the school year, at random times, there would be a fire drill. In my children’s schools in California, they had fire drills, earthquake drills, and even lockdown drills, just so they could be prepared for the emergencies the school was the most concerned about. Each of those types of emergencies require a different response, and practicing helps kids remember what to do when, and helps calm the fear of the unknown. When you’re doing a drill with your kids, make it fun! If you make it more of a game, where you are trying to beat your time for everyone getting out of the “burning house” and onto the front lawn, or something else like that, it can be something everyone finds more enjoyable.
Pack It Up
Of course, another terrific idea to help kids be prepared physically is to have them help get together a backpack of things they could need in an emergency. This will help your child be more interested in the plan and preparedness, and help them feel some ownership for the family plan. Some things to think about including in a child’s backpack are:
- clothes that fit them (better yet, a size larger so they are more likely to still fit when needed—and be sure to rotate the clothes about every 6 months, or more often with a baby!)
- food that they will eat other than the family supply (like granola bars, dried fruit, tuna, peanut butter, nuts, etc.)
- something to do (like a puzzle book or a game)
- a favorite toy or blanket that will help them feel more comfortable (some parents even get a duplicate of this item so one can stay in the backpack at all times)
Older children can be more prepared physically for an emergency if they’ve had first aid and emergency training. A lot of community organizations have these for teenagers. Check with your local schools, hospital, city center, and boy or girl scouts. Often classes for babysitting training will also include CPR training, too.
Of course, you should do what you can to keep your child physically fit. They might get Physical Exercise in school—though many schools have “P.E.” less often than they used to—but is it enough? When summer hits do your kids still get enough exercise? If it were an emergency, could your child carry his or her own backpack to assist in a bug-out? For both emergencies and lifelong health, having children who are physically fit can benefit the child and the family forever.
These are a few simple things that you can do to help your children be more prepared physically in the event of an emergency. Remember, preparation helps children and adults feel more comfortable and ready for whatever Mother Nature might throw at them.