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Tips for Preparing Children

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Disasters can be frightening, especially for children. Talk with children about what a disaster is and how they can prepare for one. Children are good at adapting to situations when they know what to expect. Listed below are some actions that adults can take to educate children about disasters:

—Explain to children that a disaster is when something happens that could hurt people, cause damage, or cut off utilities such as water, telephones, or electricity.

—Give examples of disasters that could occur in areas you frequent.

—Some disasters have warning signs; help children to recognize what they are.

—Tell children about the people that may help them in a disaster situation such as Red Cross volunteers, police officers, firefighters, teachers, and utility workers.

—Teach children how and when to call for help. Teach children how to call 9-1-1. If you do not live in a 9-1-1 service area, teach children your local emergency phone numbers.

—Involve children in developing your Family Emergency Plan.

—Have children assist with building an emergency supply kit. Make sure that children know where your emergency supply kit is stored.

—Sign up older children to take a first-aid and CPR course.

—Talk with children about fire safety. Discuss the topics listed below:

  • If your clothes catch fire…stop, drop, and roll.
  • Matches are not toys, they are tools! If you see someone playing with matches, tell an adult right away.
  • Practice an Exit Drill in the Home (E.D.I.T.H.) with your family. If you have escape ladders, show children where they are kept and how to use them.
  • Make sure children know what your smoke detectors sound like.

—Thunder can be scary to young children; teach them what to expect during a thunderstorm and how to stay safe.

—Teach children that if they come upon flood waters, they should stop, turn around, and go another way. Climb to higher ground. It is important for children to know to stay away from flooded areas; even if it seems safe, they should never try to walk, swim, or dive into the water because it may be moving fast.

—Talk with children about earthquake safety. Discuss the topics listed below:

  • Practice how to protect yourself in an earthquake.
  • Explain to children that it is dangerous to run outside during an earthquake because falling objects can hurt them.
  • Have children assist with identifying items in your home that need to be secured.
  • Although children should not turn off any utility valves, it is important that they know what gas smells like. Advise children to tell an adult if they smell gas after an earthquake.

—Teach children to be winter wise. If children are going to play in the snow, dress them in many layers, a scarf, a hat, and mittens. Make sure they come inside often to warm up. Teach children how to watch for the signs of frostbite and hypothermia.

—Teach children how to beat the heat. Explain to children that they should drink plenty of fluids, wear appropriate clothing, apply sunscreen, and reduce sun exposure when temperatures are high.

The Disaster Preparedness Coloring Book (PDF) was designed for adults and children to work on together to learn about natural hazards and how to protect themselves, all while having fun coloring (a joint publication by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross).

Additional resources:

Earthquakes for Kids

Ready Kids

Sparky the Fire Dog

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