Growing up on the west coast of Florida in the 1950s and 1960s – and spending a good part of that time living aboard a boat – I was exposed early to idea that disasters can happen quickly and without warning. Going to bed every night with a life preserver hanging within easy reach quickly imbues one with idea that you should always have an emergency plan.
And of course, we lived in Hurricane Alley. Here are the storm tracks of the hurricanes that turned Florida into a tropical shooting gallery during my formative years between 1954-1972. Donna, in 1960 (I was six) howled like a banshee and sent part of an oak tree crashing into our roof.
Most kids in Florida kept a hurricane tracking map on their bedroom wall, moving the colored pins several times each day to the coordinates provided by famed local weather forecaster Roy Leep. Until the mid-1960s, before the Tiros satellites went into service, hurricanes were both mysterious and their tracks notoriously difficult to predict.
Add in the cold war, the 1960 Cuban Missile Crisis, and constant duck & cover drills, evacuations, and Civil Defense films like Survival Under Atomic Attack in elementary school and you’d think you’d have a recipe for night terrors and phobias.
But amazingly, most of us just took it in stride. In large part, I believe, because we were encouraged at a very young age to participate in disaster preparedness.
While the atomic attack scenarios were certainly scary, we were empowered by being `prepared for the worst’, even if some of those preparations were a a bit dubious.
Luckily, disaster preparedness – particularly for kids - has come a long way from the `bad old days’ of the cold war.
Today, our concerns are focused on natural disasters, like floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Scenarios that are far more survivable than an all-out nuclear attack, and that can be approached in a more `kid-friendly’ fashion.
But the core message – that disasters happen, and we should all be prepared – hasn’t changed.
Ready.gov’s kid friendly preparedness page contains games and activities for kids along with information for parents and educators on how to teach simple, but effective preparedness lessons.
Many states have their own preparedness site for kids, such as Florida Division of Emergency Management’s Kids Get A Plan page, which provides an excellent interactive introduction to preparedness for children.
Florida’s http://www.kidsgetaplan.com/ Disaster Preparedness For Kids
If you’ve got young kids, or grandkids – and would like to introduce them to preparedness concepts without inducing undue trauma - these sites are very much worth while checking out.