Emergencies and disasters can happen at any time, often without much warning. Disaster planning, response and recovery efforts must address the unique needs of children, who make up roughly a quarter of the U.S. population.
“Children encounter the same difficult experiences as adults during disasters. Having them help prepare the family for a disaster gives them responsibility, confidence, a sense of control and turns them into self-advocates for disaster preparedness,” said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer William L. Vogel.
FEMA encourages families to have children help prepare for an emergency as early in their childhood as possible by educating them, making them more resilient and enhancing their ability to recover faster from any type of disaster.
It is helpful to:
Include children in preparedness conversations
Know your child’s school emergency plan
Practice emergency plans regularly
Make sure children have emergency contacts memorized or written down
Teach children how and when to call 9-1-1
Families need an emergency communications plan that includes a list of key contacts to reach out to during an emergency. Include an out of town emergency contact that every family member can reach to inform where and how they are, and when they will be able to reunite.
Everyone should keep a copy of this list in their belongings, such as luggage, sports bags, school bags, emergency kits, and in their cell phones.
The family emergency plan should also include an emergency kit with enough supplies for at least 10 days, such as: water, canned food, can opener, battery or solar powered radio and additional batteries if needed, first aid kit, flashlight, clothes, blankets, whistles and any prescribed medicine. Children can include personal items, such as their favorite book, toy or game.
Also, don’t forget the four-legged family members; pets and service animals are part of the family and preparing for their needs is part of the emergency plan. Children can help by gathering enough pet food and water for at least a week; food should be kept in a waterproof container. Pets should wear up-to-date tags fastened to their collar, and an extra collar should be included in the kit. Include any prescribed medicines, toys and supplies to clean up after the pet, such as plastic bags, paper towels or newspapers.
“Children are our greatest asset; teaching them good preparedness practices at an early age ensures good practices as adults,” said VITEMA Director Mona Barnes. “Families and communities gain energy and confidence when children are involved in the family’s disaster plan.”