Being prepared at home with a disaster plan—such as flood, fire, or national emergency—can help keep you and your family safe. Thinking that “it can’t happen here,” is itself, a plan for disaster. Good planning and disaster education for all family members not only gives your family the best chance during a disaster, but also it can make recovery from a disaster faster and less traumatic.
Getting Prepared at Home
Keep your house as safe and up-to-date as possible. You can do this by making sure that smoke detectors are working and have fresh batteries. Make sure fire extinguishers are up to code and kept in working order. If you live in a multi-storey residence, you should have a plan for evacuation. Apartment buildings are generally required to have fire escapes, and a multi-storey home should have a fire escape ladder available in an easy-to-reach spot on each level above the first floor. It’s best to keep torches with extra batteries handy, too.
Additionally, there are preparedness activities that you can do with your children so that they will be ready in case man-made or natural emergencies strike. You can:
- Make an emergency kit: Gathering supplies that you may need during an emergency can be turned into a fun activity for you and your family. An emergency supply kit should contain:
- A battery-powered torch
- A battery-powered radio
- Extra batteries
- First aid kit
- Emergency blanket
- Multipurpose tool (that has a knife, screwdriver, pliers)
- Water and food, at least a 3-day supply. Have at least 4 litres of water per person, per day for drinking and sanitation. Food should be non-perishable, such as canned items, dry pasta, powdered milk
- Manual can opener
- Basic utensils to prepare and eat meals
- 7-day supply of all medicines (check for expired medications regularly)
- List of family and emergency contact information
- Extra cash
- Personal hygiene items, such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitiser, feminine care
- Comfort items, such as a family photo, teddy bear, games for children
- Create an evacuation plan: Plan what to do and where to go during an emergency. Identify at least two meeting places for your family members, such as a friend’s home or public place where you can report where you are and how you are doing. Make sure everyone knows the possible routes they can use to get to the designated meeting place. Find out if there are specific buildings reserved in your town as evacuation shelters to use as a back-up meeting place.
- Practice routes and plans: Similar to fire drills at school or work, practicing evacuation processes and routes at home will help you and your children become familiar with your chosen safety plan. Create a card that contains your emergency plan as a reminder.
- Create I.C.E. contact cards: I.C.E. stands for “in case of emergency.” All members of your family should know who to contact in case of emergency. The information should be written down and easily accessible, such as on a card in your wallet, saved in a mobile phone contact list, or stashed in your child’s bag. It is a good idea to designate an emergency contact person who lives out of town. This ensures that if your family gets separated in an emergency, everyone in the family can call or text that designated person to report being safe.
Prepare Your Children
Become familiar with your children’s school or daycare emergency and evacuation procedures. It will be important for your child to know where to go for safe evacuation in the case of a disaster. Review the school plan with your entire family. Remind your child that there is a safety plan in place and that he or she should be ready to use it if ever necessary.
Teach your children as much as you can about safety and preparedness for all types of disasters. There is evidence that a more interactive approach to learning about emergency preparedness is more effective in helping children to understand. There are many online resources including games, checklists, and videos that you and your child can find for additional learnings about overall safety.
Children should be taught when to call 000 (Australia) or 111 (New Zealand) and what type of information they should give to emergency operators. Along with knowing their own full names, younger children need to know their parents’ names, address, and phone number(s). Teaching your child important names can help first responders identify and reunite you with your child.
Give your children time to understand the procedures and to repeat the plans back to you. Allow them to express their concerns—even their fears—and encourage them to ask questions.
You Are the Model
During an emergency, children rely on adults for help and guidance. Remember to stay calm during an emergency because children tend to mirror how their parents react. Preparing yourself and your family for emergency events is the key to keeping everyone you love safe and in touch.