Several months ago our electricity failed one evening in the midst of a wind storm. The lights blinked twice and then total darkness. Flashlights in hand we fired up our Coleman lantern and settled down for an evening of “camping in”. After a couple of hours of primitive living, my grandson asked when the power was coming back on. I took some time to tell him about what might have happened to cause the outage and that right this minute there were crews out there working in the dark and the wind and rain to bring the electricity back. I assured him that by morning we would probably have our lights again. Sure enough, by the time we got up, electrical power was restored. There were no episodes of fear or overt insecurity, just the horrid inconvenience of trying to adjust to life without TV or Xbox for the evening.
Children learn to take their cues from from the adults in their lives. If the grownups are panicked, then children will likewise be undone. When the adults have made some simple preparations and are ready to handle the unexpected, it can serve well to bring stability and avoid all the drama associated with their fears. Secondly, it is time well spent to explain what has happened, what is being done to fix things and how soon life might be expected to return to normal. Ask your kids if they are afraid. What are you afraid of? Reassure them that you are there with them and nothing bad is going to happen. Tell them you have plenty of food and supplies and remind them that they are warm and secure and because you are a wise and caring parent you have already prepared for just such an emergency. No worries!
Disaster preparedness for kids can be a fun and exciting activity. Getting their own backpack and emergency gear can become a game. Picking out the perfect flashlight (don’t forget extra batteries), gathering extra clothing and a spare toothbrush makes your kids feel like they’re a part of the grand solution. The internet is loaded with resources for kids. FEMA (www.ready.gov) has games, puzzles, cartoons and something called “Readiness U”. Your children can even earn a certificate of graduation when they master Knowing the Facts, Making a Plan, Building a Kit, then they earn the right to graduate from Readiness U. How can you go wrong when you have help from Flat Stanley and Flat Stella to help your little ones navigate their way to preparedness? Even NASA has a website designed especially for kids that offers tips on surviving hurricanes and other hazards.
So when you’re making your plan and getting your kit together, involve the kids. They’re always part of the plan anyway and they love to be involved in disaster preparedness. As always send your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster living in Myrtle Point, Oregon. He is also the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers.