Preparing a Family Safety Plan for Emergency Situations
by Dawn Ramsburg
SourceNPIN Parent News
ForumsHealth, Safety, Nutrition and Kids
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No community is immune to the natural disasters and emergencies that can arise throughout the year. Already this year, there have been tornadoes in the South and Midwest, floods and landslides in California, and winter storms in the Northern regions of the United States. In addition to natural disasters, homes and communities can be affected by fires or radiological and hazardous materials accidents.
While such experiences are frightening and frustrating, it is possible to alleviate some of the stress and concerns by being prepared. Planning and preparation is especially important for families if children may be at school and parents at work when a disaster strikes. This means that family members will need to know how to link up again in the event of neighborhood evacuation or damage to the home. To help avoid injury and panic in your family in case of an emergency, it is important to create a family preparedness plan.
To help you create such a plan, the National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the American Red Cross have devised the following four-step process (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Federal Emergency Management Agency; & The American Red Cross, 1992).
1. Do Your Homework.
2. Create a Family Disaster Plan.
3. Make a Checklist and Periodically Update It.
4. Practice and Maintain Your Plan.
One way to practice your safety plan is to actually put your plan into action when the emergency sirens in your area are tested each month. For example, at one local day care center, they have the children gather in the hall and put their heads down according to their safety plan when the sirens are tested on the first Tuesday of each month. The advantage of practicing in this way is that the children are learning what they will need to do in the event of a real emergency, but without the stress of the real situation. At home, you can plan a fire drill for your family a few times a year and similarly implement the family safety plan for meeting outside the home. This lets everyone in the family learn what they should be doing in case an emergency does arise.
Despite planning and preparation, it will not be possible to avoid all emergencies or disasters. Therefore, in addition to having a preparedness plan, it is also important to have a kit ready to help you survive in the first few days following a disaster.
A disaster supply kit should include:
While these supplies can help your family get by until they can return home or until they find other arrangements, reducing the long-term effects of a disaster on your family will take additional time and resources. Following a disaster, children may display fear, anger, loss, or become quiet and withdrawn (Illinois Cooperative Extension Service, 1995). It is important that children be encouraged to talk about their feelings and express their fears. Childrens fears may show in nightmares, increased crying or clinging, or becoming withdrawn. By discussing these fears, children can learn to cope with what occurred.
It is also important to continue to make time for your children in times of emergency. While this may sound unreasonable, your children just need a moment of reassurance to feel more secure and safe in this disruptive situation (Smith, 1987). Children will also be reassured by knowing what is happening, so it is important to speak honestly about what is going on. For example, if you must leave your house because of floods, be honest about the possibility of losing some belongings. Children can also be reassured by maintaining certain rituals such as hearing a bedtime story.
While no family ever wants to face an emergency, planning and preparation can reduce some of the potential harm of these events. Following a disaster, families can overcome the adversity of the situation by supporting each other and working together to overcome what may be lost. This support can strengthen the family in ways that will last long after the crisis is resolved.
For more information on preparing a family survival kit, please visit:
American Red Cross-Disaster Safety
FEMA Family Disaster Plan
Helping Children After a Disaster from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Illinois Cooperative Extension Service Disaster Resources
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Federal Emergency Management Agency; & The American Red Cross. (1992). A preparedness guide, including safety information for schools [Online]. Available: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/tornado.htm#family [1998, April 2].
Illinois Cooperative Extension Service. (1995). Helping children cope with a disaster [Online]. Available: http://www.ag.uiuc.edu/~disaster/facts/kidcope.html [1998, April 15].
Smith, Charles. (1987). Helping children through the flood [Online]. Available: http://www.nncc.org/Guidance/help.flood.html [1998, April 6].Back to the Table of Contents
Published monthly by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Children's Research Center, 51 Gerty Drive, Champaign, IL 61820-7469. This publication was funded by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under contract no. DERR93002007. Opinions expressed in this magazine do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the Department of Education.
NPIN Coordinator and Parent News Editor: Anne Robertson
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