September is National Preparedness Month, but it’s important to think year-round about your family’s disaster plans. And while natural disasters can be scary for children to think about, make sure to include the whole family when creating a plan.
“San Diego is at risk for disasters such as earthquakes and California's current wildfires,” says Sharon Carlson, director of emergency preparedness for Sharp HealthCare. “It is important to talk to your children about these risks.”
Carlson shares five tips for talking to children about disaster preparedness.
Explain disaster preparedness in a kid-friendly way
Fires and earthquakes are scary subjects, especially for children who may not fully understand what they are and what to do when they strike. Explain different natural disasters that affect your area in simple terms.
"Allow your children to ask questions and try to provide honest answers using language they understand,” says Carlson. Take into account your child’s age and level of comprehension when you have these discussions. Then, go over steps for how your family can be prepared.
Your message may resonate with kids better if you explain why disaster preparedness is important.
“Let your children know you are doing everything you can to make sure they are safe,” says Carlson. Reassuring your kids in this way will help them play an active role in disaster planning while reducing their fears and anxieties.
Help them learn important information
It’s important that your child knows key information that can help them stay safe. That includes special needs and allergies, which you can also keep on a medical alert bracelet that your child can wear. Carlson also recommends teaching kids their first name, last name and telephone number as soon as they are old enough to remember.
Build a disaster kit together as a family
Creating a preparedness kit with your kids will help them feel safe and ready, while also helping them learn the necessary items when dealing with a disaster.
Here are some items to include in your kit:
A list of your child’s prescribed medications and extra refills, in the event the pharmacies are closed
Extra clothing, diapers and formula
Age-appropriate games, so the kids can have something to do while waiting in a shelter
At least a gallon of water per person per day, for at least three days
A supply of nonperishable food for at least three days
Make a plan
You should also include your child in discussions about your family disaster plan. “Important topics to talk about include establishing a family meeting place, choosing an emergency contact and deciding how your family will communicate if you get separated,” says Carlson.
You can keep a copy of the disaster plan in your child’s backpack so they have it with them at all times. To help your child feel prepared when at school, talk to their teacher about the school’s preparedness plans as well.