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Emergency Preparedness: Tips to Get Your Kids Involved

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In the local news of my part of the world, there has been story after story of emergencies accompanying wildfires and mudslides. In almost all of these stories, there are evacuations of nearby neighborhoods as more than half of the thousand or so wildfires sparked in Utah this summer have been human-caused and near human establishments. When I hear of these stories, the first thing that comes to mind is what we would do if we had to evacuate. It is, after all, National Emergency Preparedness Month.

Mom, dad, and two little boys

Once a month on a Monday night, we do something as a family to prepare for an emergency. Sometimes we just go buy a can of dehydrated apples. On other nights, we practice an evacuation or go over how to push the screens out of bedroom windows in case of a fire. Our little activities often turn out quite interesting. When we tell our nine-year-old and our three-year-old "Pretend like we have 10 minutes to pack necessities and leave because a wildfire's coming," for instance, what do they pack? A Gameboy and a teddy bear. So I think that part of my job as their mom is to help them grasp the gravity of a possible emergency so they can help prepare without scaring them silly. Tricky.

The Red Cross offers these tips:

When talking with your child, be sure to present a realistic picture that is both honest and manageable. Feelings of fear are healthy and natural for both adults and children. But as an adult, you need to keep control of the situation.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests:

Kids who take an active role in disaster preparedness are less fearful and can also be a big help if a disaster happens.

They even have a whole website just for kids with games and ideas, at

To that I would add, with the benefit of a little bit of "on-the-ground" experience, these tips:

  • Make emergency preparedness part of your family routine in some way. Most kids do best with routine or predictability, as you know. It doesn't have to be every day or every week, and it doesn't have to take a whole day, but it does need to be consistent. This has really helped us.
  • Prepare for what's most likely to happen in your area.
  • Make it fun. I tend to want my kids to take preparing for an emergency very seriously, because their knowledge or actions in the case of an actual emergency could make a big difference. But if I take it too seriously or get frustrated too easily, they pick up on that and associate negative emotions with our emergency preparedness lessons. So I try to incorporate games or hunts or treats of some kind.
  • Do it together, and give them active roles. The more involved they are in the process of, say, creating a 72-hour kit, the more likely they are to feel like they have a measure of control.

Of course, good old-fashioned reassurances that you will do your best to protect them also work.

Would you add any tips to this list? What has worked for you?

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr.


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