Tuesday, September 27, 2016

#NatlPrep: Disaster Preparedness For Kids

Note: This is day 27 of National Preparedness Month . Follow this year’s campaign on Twitter by searching for the #NatlPrep hash tag.
This month, as part of NPM16, I’ll be rerunning some edited and updated older preparedness essays, along with some new ones.


Growing up on the west coast of Florida during the tropically active 1960s, I got used to the `drill' of preparing for hurricanes at a very early age.  The first storm I really remember was Hurricane Donna in 1960 - which put a large tree limb across our roof as it crossed the state and ran up the East Coast.

During my `formative years’  a lot of named storms crossed my path (I spent most of that time living in the green circle around Tampa Bay), and like most kids in Florida, I kept a hurricane tracking map on my bedroom wall to monitor their progress.


I knew their strength, forward speed, and direction of movement, and dutifully updated the map every 6 hours. Call it therapeutic. But I took comfort in knowing where these storms were, where they were likely headed, and knowing when they posed a potential threat - and more importantly – when they didn’t.   
I was involved, and so I felt in control.

When you add in cold war jitters, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, constant school duck & cover drills and evacuations, CONELRAD alerts on TV, and films like Survival Under Atomic Attack and `Bert the turtle’ PSAs in elementary school, you’d think you’d have a recipe for night terrors and phobias. 

But surprisingly, 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. The lesson was that threats were something you prepared for, not worried about.

Fortunately, disaster preparedness – particularly for kids - has come a long way from the grim messaging of the cold war.
Today, our concerns are focused more 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.
Still, 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.

Most of these programs are designed for younger kids, so I was pleased last year to find an online disaster preparedness game more suitable for older kids; the ISDR: The `Stop Disasters’ Simulation Game.  The game has five scenarios, with three levels of difficulty in each, to choose from.  Earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, wildfire or flood. 

For more ideas on teaching kids to be disaster and earthquake resilient SHAKEOUT.ORG has a long list of educational resources divided up by suitable school grade brackets (K-6, 7-12). 

Although most parents want to protect their kids from undo worry - when a disaster threatens, it threatens all of us – regardless of our age. 
Helping kids to understand more about emergency preparedness and community resilience will help them cope (and perhaps, even help) in the event they, or their community, are caught up in a disaster.

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