Planning for an emergency is very important. Planning for an emergency once you have kids in the home is absolutely crucial. When time is short and the situation is chaotic, it is essential that everyone in the house knows what to do (and what to grab) when having to take shelter in, or in some instances having to evacuate from, your home.
There are many, many emergency kits and disaster plans out there. Planning for a hurricane or tornado can be very different than planning for a flood or for a wildfire. What you need in the summer months can be very different from what you need in the winter. While most of these plans are very comprehensive, what they usually lack are suggestions for children and their needs, beyond basic first aid.
Our family has become quite experienced in emergency planning. We have experienced tornadoes in Kansas and hurricanes in Florida (all we need to do is to move to earthquake country for a natural disaster trifecta). I have compiled a list of some of the items we include with our emergency planning, to help reduce child anxiety when faced with extreme weather situations. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Glow Sticks- When the power goes out, glow sticks are a great alternative to night lights. They are safer than candle flames and last much longer than battery powered flashlights. Also, they can be bought in bulk for relatively few dollars.
2. Stuffed Animals- You know what happens when your child’s "best friend" is left home when traveling. Imagine that same anxiety multiplied by scary weather or an unfamiliar environment. Teddy bears or plush toys can be a great comfort to your kids during chaotic times.
3. Pets – Nothing can create more concern for a child than not knowing the status of a beloved pet. If you have outdoor pets or pets that cannot be easily sheltered or evacuated with you, make sure these scenarios are talked through with your kids during planning.
See more items after the jump.
4. Sleeping Bags- We keep ours near our storm shelter, instead of in the attic or garage. If you have to hunker down for a while in your home, or if you have to evacuate quickly, having ready bedding for the kids can provide a warm, cocoon-like environment.
5. Foam Earplugs- Light hearing protection can be helpful in situations where the wind is howling or thunder is booming. During times where you may have to take shelter for an extended period of time, calming the din may help your child remain calm or get to sleep. IMPORTANT: Make sure you use light hearing protection, not items which prevent your child from hearing important instructions. They should only be used when the children are being directly supervised.
6. Sturdy Shoes- If you have to get the kids up in the middle of the night to seek shelter or to evacuate, many parents (myself included) forget to tell the kids to grab their sturdiest shoes. This can be important when navigating around debris after an event. Even better, if your kids have old play shoes they no longer wear but still fit, keep them stored with your emergency items.
7. Low-Tech Diversions- Puzzle books, comics, travel games, etc. Anything to help the young ones pass the time that is not dependent upon electricity.
8. Snacks- Always important to keep nearby with kids around, regardless of the situation. (Parents like them too!)
These are only a few suggested items to supplement your emergency kit. Specific items for potential emergencies in your area should be considered when making your plan. More information can be found from the American Red Cross or from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Your municipality may also have resources on emergency planning in your immediate area.
And finally, make sure your kids have input when making your disaster preparations. The more they help in the planning, the better prepared they will be to act in an emergency situation. And once you have a plan, make sure you rehearse it. Children are used to emergency drills at school. Safety in the home should be no less of a priority.
What items do you pack for your kids in the event of an emergency?