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Severe Weather Emergencies

Floodwaters on kids playground

Severe Weather and Children

Severe weather can be dangerous and quickly turn into an emergency, which can be devastating for children. The type of severe weather you could experience may depend on where you live.  However, no matter where you live or what type of severe weather you may be up against, there are steps you can take to make sure you and your family stay healthy and protected.

How Severe Weather Impacts Children

Children’s bodies are different from adults in ways that make them more likely to get sick or injured, especially during a severe weather event. First, children are smaller and still developing. Falls or flying objects can easily damage their internal organs during earthquakes, tornadoes, or other severe weather. Second, children’s bones are still growing and they are more likely to break or fracture.  Third, children’s immune systems are still developing so they are more susceptible to germs that can make them sick. For example, if drinking water or food becomes contaminated with germs due to loss of electricity or unsanitary conditions, children can develop diarrhea or vomiting and quickly become dehydrated. A vomiting or diarrheal illness that is mild in adults can be serious in children.

Children rely on adults for their protection and may not understand what to do to keep themselves safe if separated from their caregivers. For example, they may not know when severe weather poses a threat to their health and safety, or they may not be physically capable of escaping a dangerous situation. They may have trouble following directions or communicating their needs or wants.

Protecting Children During Severe Weather

Some severe weather events are predictable while others may happen with little or no warning. By doing the following, you can help keep yourself and your family safe and healthy in any weather emergency:

  • Prepare an emergency kit that includes supplies you will need if you and your family cannot leave your home (shelter in place) because of severe weather. Your emergency kit should have a 3-day supply of food that cannot spoil, water, flashlight, first aid supplies, and special medicines or medical equipment that your family needs.
  • Make a plan for special steps that you can take to protect your family during severe weather events where you live. A family communication plan is important in case family members are separated or not together when a weather emergency happens.
  • Be informed, stay informed before, during, and after an emergency about any warnings or safety instructions given by local authorities. Having a battery-powered, solar, or hand-crank radio will help you get important local updates on the situation, even if you lose electricity.

CDC’s Children’s Preparedness Unit helps children prepare for emergencies with Ready Wrigley activity books. These books were developed especially for children ages 2-8 and include various severe weather topics, such as extreme heat, winter weather, tornadoes, hurricanes, storms and floods, and earthquakes*.

*Earthquakes are natural disasters, not severe weather events, but they are another Ready Wrigley activity book topic.

Learn about additional steps that you need to take for different severe weather events:

Natural Emergencies are on the Rise

In 2015, losses from flooding and other storms exceeded $14.7 billion. Compared to the average number of emergencies occurring from 2005 to 2014, the number of climate-based and geophysical emergencies in the U.S. during 2015 were 1.6 and 1.2 times higher, respectively. The number of victims from geophysical emergencies (1.64 million) was 63% higher for victims during the years, 2005-2014.

-Source: Annual Disaster Statistical Review 2015, Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED)

Additional Resources

Ready Wrigley severe weather activity books for children

Emergency Preparedness and Response

Helping children cope with a disaster or traumatic event

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