Preparing your family for a disaster involves more than just creating a plan. Each family member—especially children—needs to know exactly what to do during an emergency. Here are some helpful suggestions to communicate the importance of disaster preparedness to your family.
Designate Roles. Give everyone in your family a responsibility. Each family member is an integral part of the plan and each has an important contribution.
Role-play. Younger family members may be easily upset if they see a parent worried or panicking. Spend an afternoon pretending an emergency has occurred and allow everyone to practice their designated roles. This will help your family be better prepared for the rush of emotions they may experience during a disaster.
Visit Emergency Meeting Places. If you have chosen an emergency meeting place out-of-state, make certain your family is familiar with the location. Assist family members in recognizing landmarks (i.e., buildings, signs, curiously shaped trees or other landmarks, etc.) to help remind them of where they are or where they should be going. Ensure all family members memorize emergency rendezvous location addresses.
Introduce Your Family to Emergency Contacts. Young children may not be comfortable talking with strangers—even strangers their parents have designated as safe. Introduce your children to emergency contacts and explain their role in your family’s disaster plan. Instruct children regarding safe authority figures, such as firemen, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, etc.
Practice. Regularly quiz family members about the family’s emergency preparedness plan. Make it a game for younger children. Who’s our local emergency contact? Where do we go when there’s an emergency? Who’s responsible for watching the dog? What is our address? What are the phone numbers you will call? What will you do if we get separated? Where is the emergency kit stored and what is in it? Where is the water stored? How do you use a manual can opener? How do you use a cell phone or landline? The more the family practices the plan, the better family members will be able to recall what to do during an actual emergency.
Point Out Emergency Essentials. Be sure everybody in your family knows the location of your Disaster Supply Kit. Keep your Disaster Supply Kit in one place—if you move it, let everyone know the new storage location.
Be Honest. Everyone in your family will have questions about preparedness. Take the time to address questions, concerns, and fears, honestly and factually. Discuss mental health concerns, evacuation, sheltering, and returning home. Emphasize, although the situation may be difficult, and there may be loss and/or sadness, the family has made and practiced the plans to survive and recover from any disaster situation.