Championing Preparedness for Children Starts at Home
It’s National Public Health Week. Ensure a Safe, Healthy Home for Your Family. Health and safety begin at home.
In 2012, CDC started a Children’s Preparedness Initiative to champion the needs of children in emergency preparedness and response efforts. This initiative has served to align CDC activities and engage partners in promoting the care of children in emergencies. About 66 million children are affected by natural disasters each year. Keeping your family safe in emergency situations starts in the home, whatever the emergency may be. Here are some tips for you to follow at home; protect your family—get a kit, make a plan, and be informed.
Get a Kit
“If you could take one thing with you on a desert island, what would it be?” This popular children’s question game is not too far off the mark for putting together an emergency kit for your family. Maintaining a routine in an emergency will help your children cope, and putting together a good kit is the first step in helping you do that. Let your child pick things that make them feel secure, such as a favorite book or food—even if it is not healthy. Your kids will enjoy helping create a kit of all the things they are sure they could not live without in case of an emergency. Be sure to include your children in the process. Make it a game, they will find it fun!
Some basic items to include in your kit include:
- Radio (hand-crank or battery-powered with extra batteries)
- First-aid kit
- Can opener
- Canned goods
You should also know your children’s medications and keep a small supply in case of emergency. Consider a small identification card with information on key medications and emergency contacts for your child to keep with him or her at all times.
Think of your family’s specific needs. For example, if you have an infant child, have any special foods or formulas and extra diapers on hand. Here are other emergency kit ideas.
Make a Plan
Knowing what to do in an emergency is just as important as having a kit. While it is important for you personally to be ready, a number of measures can contribute to keeping your entire family safe. Most important is ensuring you have a way to reunite your family if separated at the time of the emergency. Children do better in these situations when they are with their families. As a start, teach your child important names, phone numbers and addresses. Most children can memorize a phone number by age four or five. Make it a game—it could help keep your child safe.
Protecting your family will involve others, as well. Pick a family member out of town to be a common contact for everyone to call or text. Sometimes local telephone networks can be jammed. If someone else cares for your child during part of the day, always make sure they know what to do and who to contact in an emergency, too. Lastly, make sure you have a plan for what to do with your pets. They are part of the family, too!
Staying informed of your family’s situation when everyone is separated during the day is important. Know the emergency plan in your child’s school and keep your emergency contact information up to date. Delegate a close family friend as an alternate contact that could pick your child up if you or your spouse is not able to do so. Consider using a word that only you and your child know, and make sure your child knows only to leave with someone who can tell them what the code word is. This word can be anything, like a favorite book character, and can serve as the “password” or the “code word.”
In an emergency, talk to your child about what is happening. Be honest and explain the situation; better they learn about it from you than from the media, which may not be age-appropriate. Set an example with your own actions by maintaining a sense of calm, even when you are distressed. This will help your family cope in any emergency.
Events are fluid in an emergency and information can change quickly. Stay tuned to local authorities so you can make the best, most informed decisions for you and your family.