Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Preparing our children for emergencies

There are few things worse than the feelings of helplessness - when your security has been taken from you.

Being a survivor of more than one close calls with a tornado - including one that hit my office - this Kansas girl has gone from spectator to safety nut. And being a parent makes preparation even more important.

But one thing I've noticed in my seven years of parenting is that kids need to feel that they can control what can't be controlled as well. I remember all too well as a child bringing every blanket, pillow and toy I owned to our basement twice a week in tornado season. My kids are showing that same need to prepare and take ownership.

And yes, even little ones can learn how to prepare for emergencies.

Just as tornado season was starting to kick up, our Brownie troop spent an evening talking about emergency preparedness: everything from what to do when you heard thunder (a considerable worry for many of the girls, who dived under the cafeteria tables as a response) to how you hear about weather - from the internet to TV to sirens to the weather radio. And key among this was the importance of learning information as close to first hand as possible - as the message gets diluted as it is passed along.

The great thing is the girls learned at an early age about basic weather safety - an essential thing. When last spring's devastating tornado in Henryville was still fresh on their minds, the girls took safety tips to heart.

The girls also practiced their emergency reporting skills, made a tornado, and even did a relay on "decontamination" - strange you may think, until you realize that last summer a local pool was evacuated due to a chemical spill. We also sent home activity books on emergency planning and building an emergency kit home with the girls to share with their families.

Yes, you can let kids know it's OK to be scared in a weather emergency. But it's just as important to teach them that they do have some control too.