In the last year our family has experienced a great number of deaths. This, paired with the fact that my favorite TV show is about the end of the world, I have become increasingly aware of the fact that Emergency Preparedness Plans are important.
I recently started thinking about whether or not our family was prepared for disaster. Could we survive without power for an extended time? Would we be able to handle the death of someone in our inner circle? Do my kids know what to do in an emergency? Can they dial 911, could they give someone our address, could they fight off an attacker?
This was a big one for me. We live in the world of cellular phones. Our home, along with many others, does not have a landline. This means that our children, and possibly any others who stay here, would have to know how to use a cellular phone.
I think this sounds like a given in our day and age, but cell phones have screen locks, the numbers aren’t always on the screen as soon as you open it… there are a lot of things to consider.
As a former preschool teacher and parent educator, I have found that many parents don’t think about these things until it’s too late.
Here are some of the most important things that kids should know (at all ages) to be prepared for disaster.
- FULL NAME. Seems simple, but you would be surprised how many kids under the age of 5 or 6 don’t know their last name.
- ADDRESS: Practice this until you think you can’t practice it anymore, then practice it some more. Make sure your kids know your street address and can answer it at a moment’s notice. I used to just randomly ask my kids our address when they were playing, just to catch them off guard. If you have an emergency and you are unable to give your address, your children need to be able to say this for you. We started practicing when my kids could talk. We would repeat it over and over again, I even put it to the tune of a song… “My address is ….. My address is ….. This is where I live, my mom and dad live here too, my address is ……”
- MOM AND DAD’S NAME: Sounds simple, but as a preschool teacher when asked “What’s your mom’s name?” almost all of my two and three year olds would answer, “Mommy.” Make sure your kids know your first and last name. If they ever get separated from you, they can get back to you a lot faster if they know your name.
- THE NAME OF ANOTHER CLOSE RELATIVE OR FRIEND: We practiced grandma and grandpa’s first and last names, aunts, uncles, our closest friends… anyone who would know my child and know who I was we made sure our kids knew their first and last name. Again, if your kid get lost and they can say “my grandpa is John Black” a police officer or emergency responder can easily google that name and have a place to start.
- HOW TO DIAL 911: Make sure your child knows how to unlock your cell phone, dial 911, and answer simple questions. We practiced this with a fake phone, pressing the numbers, pressing send, and answering questions. I would say, “911 what’s your emergency” and we taught them to say, “my name is _____, I live at _____, and my mommy is hurt. I need help.” ALWAYS, ALWAYS, teach your kids to say their address as one of the first things… this can help get emergency responders to your house so much faster, and sometimes in an emergency minutes or seconds matter. Also, if a call were to get dropped at least 911 knows the address where they are going. Also, practice what to say in an emergency if you aren’t home. Practice describing things in your location, street signs, trees, houses, railroad tracks, a river, a pond, etc.
- HAVE AN EMERGENCY PLAN: Make sure your kids know what to do if your house catches on fire… get out safely and go to a neighbor’s house. DO NOT try to grab toys, just get out. Also, teach your kids that if they get lost, they should sit down and not move. If your child wanders off and gets lost outside, they could wander for miles, and put themselves in even more danger. My brother is a Search and Rescue Emergency Responder, and he teaches kids to “Hug a Tree.” You hug a mommy sized tree – don’t hug a small baby tree, because it could break. Don’t hug a big daddy sized tree, because in a storm they could blow over and break also (they are the tallest). Hug a medium sized mommy tree, because they will protect you.
- SAFE AND UNSAFE PEOPLE: This is a difficult thing to address with kids – because as we know, sometimes even those we should trust aren’t safe. BUT, when your child is in danger or lost, they need to know that they should look for police officers, or other emergency personnel, a “worker” – if you are at Wal-Mart look for someone with a Wal-Mart shirt, a mommy – we taught our kids to look for a mommy with kids… this is generally safer than a grown man and usually less intimidating for kids. NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER tell your children to be afraid of or run from police or other emergency responders. This is the SINGLE BIGGEST mistake I hear parents making. UGH!!! NEVER DO IT!!
- WHAT TO DO IF A STRANGER TALKS TO YOU: It was commonplace a while back to teach kids that out of respect we speak to adults when they speak to us. However, we can’t always trust adults, it’s sad, but true. So, my kids always have the option to not speak to an adult stranger if they don’t want to. Predators “prime” their targets, they talk to them, make themselves seem friendly and safe, then go in for the “kill” so to speak. Tell your children if they are outside and an adult approaches to YELL as loud as they can and RUN inside. It might seem extreme, but it could mean the difference between saving your kid’s lives or not. YELL AND RUN!!!
The most important thing to remember is to TALK to your kids. Talk about those situations that could happen, talk about what to do if they get kidnapped, if the house burns down, if they get lost. TALK, TALK, TALK!!! I know someone who refuses to speak to her children about these things, because she doesn’t want to upset them or scare them… I would rather have my child be prepared and aware, and risk the possibility of them being a little scared, than to have them dead or kidnapped. That’s a harsh truth, but it’s truth.
What have you done to prepare your family for possible emergency situations? Share them here and we might feature your tips in an upcoming post!!!