Tag Archives: disaster

  • How TV Shows Are Preparing Children for Disasters

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    Tsunami 02Seventeen-year-old Raudhatul Mawaddah had read in a comic book that a tsunami usually follows an earthquake. So after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Indonesia on December 26, 2004, despite her father’s objections, she grabbed her 1-month-old stepbrother and 4-year-old stepsister and ran for the mountain near her home, according to an October 2007 UNICEF report. Her home was four kilometers (about 1.3 miles) from the ocean, but it was still hit by flood waters from a tsunami. When the water receded, a stranger’s body was left on her family’s kitchen floor. That tsunami killed 230,000 people, including some 5,000 miles away from the earthquake’s epicenter. But Raudhatul’s family survived.

    It can be tough to prepare children for natural disasters. You might be afraid of scaring them or giving them nightmares. You might not know what’s age-appropriate. Yet studies agree that children who learn about disasters in a safe environment are less afraid during a disaster.

    Here’s the nice bit: You don’t have to figure out how to teach children about emergency preparedness by yourself. PBS Kids, Disney Junior, Sesame Workshop: all have released TV shows and related tools to help with disaster preparedness and coping. Here are some I found.


    Sesame Street, 2001

    The granddaddy of them all. Seriously. This was the earliest emergency preparedness episode I could find. It came out in 2001 and was rebroadcast after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

    In this episode, Big Bird’s nest is destroyed in a hurricane. His friends and neighbors come together to help him rebuild, find places to eat, sleep, and play, and help him cope with his emotions.


    Sesame Street, 2014

    In October 2014, Sesame Street also released its “Let’s Get Ready” series. It offers tools to help kids learn important information like their full name, phone number and names of other family members, like an app, printables and short videos. It also gives information about how to create an emergency plan and how to cope after an emergency.


    The Pillowcase Project, Disney Junior, and American Red Cross,2012

    Monster Guard -Red Cross Monster Guard

    After Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans chapter of the American Red Cross developed the Pillowcase Project, a preparedness education program for children in grades 3-5. It encourages kids to prepare by packing a pillowcase of emergency supplies that they can quickly grab for an emergency evacuation. Disney produced a public service announcement for older kids and created a booklet starring Mickey Mouse and other characters from the TV show Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

    The partnership also produced an app, Monster Guard, in which kids play games to learn about preparing for various types of emergencies.


    Doc McStuffins, 2015

    Through Doc McStuffins, the title character of a Disney Junior show who repairs toys and teaches about life skills, Disney expanded the pillowcase project to preschoolers for this year’s Disaster Preparedness Month. In a one-minute public service announcement, Doc prepares an emergency kit with flashlight, clothes, blanket and snacks, and makes an emergency plan with family contact information.


    Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, 2015

    “Take a grownup’s hand, follow the plan and you’ll be safe,” my kids now sing. Over and over and over again. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is a preschool TV show based on characters from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. In a story that lasts a full episode, when a big storm hits the neighborhood, everyone stays safe. They follow a storm safety plan that includes sheltering in a safe place, making an emergency kit, and helping others clean up afterward. The episode also comes with tips and games.


    Arthur, 2015

    This month, PBS Kids also released an episode of Arthur, a cartoon for school-age children, in which the characters coped with the aftermath of a hurricane.

    Again, PBS Kids provided tips and games to help kids be more resilient after a disaster.


    Ready.gov, 2015

    Disaster MasterFEMA’s web site Ready.gov has a game, “Disaster Master,” emergency plan and kit information for kids and information about how to get wireless alerts.

    - Melissa




    Do you know of any other good TV shows or games to help teach kids to prepare? Let us know in the comments section!



    Posted In: Disaster Scenarios Tagged With: Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Arthur, PBS Kids, kids, Prepare, disaster

  • When Disaster Strikes and You Are Not Ready: Lessons from the Philippines

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    In the Philippines, power and running water can be gone at the drop of a hat. Trust me, I know from experience. One moment you’re walking down the street under the street lights, the next…darkness. It makes for quite the dangerous walk, considering all the deep holes in the sidewalks (fortunately, I only fell in one hole my entire time there). Having lived in the Philippines for a couple years, I’ve experienced all kinds of things that really opened my eyes to why we prepare for emergencies. One event in particular stands out in my mind.


    The Tropical Storm

    Malaya 2-Rice on RoadIn the fall of 2006, I was living in a small town in the province of Rizal. A single road splits the town in half. On either side of the road, there are a few smaller side streets. A large lake is less than a mile West of the main road. Mountains are just to the East, just after the terraces of rice paddies. It is a rural town, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.


    Malaya-PalayanOne of the downsides to beautiful, rural living, however, is that when a tropical storm comes through, there isn’t much to stop it from wreaking havoc. That November, we were hit by a powerful tropical storm. It knocked out our power and stopped our already unreliable running water.

    We had some backup water, but not much. We couldn’t shower, and our dirty laundry just remained dirty. What else could we do? After just two days the water was back on (hurray!), so we had our showers back and our laundry cleaned, and once again we could run our water through our filters for consumption. The power, however, remained off.

    The Philippines is a hot, humid place, which makes for very unpleasant nights without power. The bedroom in which I slept had no window, and there was only one window in the front room. I moved My bed out there and hoped for a little breeze. Because the power was out, our electric fans were useless. The days were hot, and the nights somehow hotter. What I would have given for some electricity!

    After ten days of sleeping in a hot, stuffy room, the power was finally restored, and while it was still hotter than the sun, having that breeze move across my face while I slept felt – if just for a moment – like the cold, arctic wind. A little electricity can work wonders.

    Unfortunately, all the food in the fridge went bad. Instead of keeping food for days before cooking it, we had to buy food the day we wanted to eat it. Nothing would keep. Fishermen were giving their fish away for free because if they didn’t, it would just go bad.

    A bamboo home near a rice field behind our house was completely washed away by the storm. We knew that family well, and while we were happy that everyone was safe, we were also very sorrowful for their loss. Oddly enough, their neighbor’s home was hardly damaged.

    Even though the storm was too weak to be a hurricane, it still created quite a mess. Streets flooded into homes, tree limbs littered the ground, blocking the road, and damaging property. Food and clean water was in short supply. Cleanup took quite some time.


    Lessons Learned

    Malaya 2-Kitchen We had to collect our water in a bucket, then pump that water through a filter before we could drink it.

    While the experience was less than desirable, it showed how we can be prepared. More than ever, the water filter we used was a life saver. Of course, we always used it, because water in the Philippines just isn’t safe without it. However, after the storm caused floods and stirred the pot, so to speak, the water was even less safe than before. Having a water filter for when the water stops running is, in my opinion, one of the greatest resources you can have.

    Another hot commodity was electricity. Without a way to stay cool, sleep was more than just difficult – it was nearly impossible. I would fall asleep fanning my face with some sort of paper or cardboard, then wake up with a start when the hot, humid air began to suffocate me again. If your power goes out during a hot summer (or a cold winter, for that matter), having a way to stay cool (or warm) can make life a whole lot more bearable.

    Having no power was a pain for more than just sleeping. Not being able to keep food long term was difficult at best. By having long-term food storage, losing power won’t affect your ability to eat. Having extra food on hand would have been a huge benefit to us during this emergency.

    You will never know the extent of damage a disaster will cause until it actually happens. The Philippines is prone to huge typhoons, so we were lucky this was just a little guy. Still, we were affected for over a week without certain things that here in America we tend to take for granted.


    Before the next disaster comes to your neck of the woods, I urge you to prepare your home and family for any scenario. Know the disasters that are prone to your region and prepare accordingly. And if, after a disaster, it turns out you over prepared, then that’s far better than the alternative. I would much rather be over prepared than underprepared.


    Have you ever been left without power or water following a disaster? What did you do?



    Posted In: Planning Tagged With: tropical storm, not prepared, philippines, power, water, disaster

  • Tips for Helping Children Cope During Disasters

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    On September 8, as part of National Preparedness Month, PBS Kids ran a disaster-themed episode of Arthur, a cartoon aimed at school-age children. On the show, all the characters had to deal with the aftermath of a hurricane: family members leaving, homes and businesses destroyed, staying in a shelter, helping others. The children also faced the emotional consequences of the disaster.

    In the aftermath of a disaster, taking emotional care of yourself and your family can be hard. Yet, especially for children, that care is vital.

    Helping Children Cope - Images“How much are young children affected by events that take place around them? A lot,” according to Zero to Three, a nonprofit organization for early childhood development. Even though they may not understand the meaning of what they see or hear, children absorb the images that surround them and are deeply impacted by the emotions of the people they rely on for love and security.”

    A great way to take care of children emotionally is let them help with emergency preparation.

    In the Arthur episode, the character Muffy happily described how her family prepared for the upcoming hurricane.

    “Oh, the Crosswires are super prepared. We have a generator, tons of spring water, both sparkling and distilled, and three cases of smoked trout.”

    Children can help make emergency kits. They can practice fire and other disaster drills. They can learn emergency contact information.

    “Social science research and anecdotal evidence support the idea that children who have learned about emergency preparedness experience less anxiety during an actual emergency or disaster,” according to Ready.gov.

    Helping Children Cope Turning off the television is a great way in helping children cope with disasters. Too many negative images can really pay a toll on their emotional well-being.

    After a disaster, turn off the TV and be careful following other media, say Cynthia Moore and Paula Rauch, authors of an e-book about helping children cope that was written for the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. The need to follow every update can exacerbate adult anxiety, which children sense. Young children may think repeated images are new ones, which can make a disaster seem even worse than it is, they wrote.

    Instead, listen to children and talk to them after a disaster. For young children, that means playing with them, naming feelings and helping them color or tell stories.

    “Answer children’s questions according to their level of understanding: ‘Yes, a bad thing happened but we are keeping you safe,’” said the Zero to Three guide.

    Children Serving - Helping Children Cope Having children serve those effected by disaster is a great way in helping them cope with the same event.

    A great way to help older children cope is to get them involved helping others. It can be as simple as writing letters or making cookies for friends, or helping collect supplies for others in need. On Arthur, the title character built a web site to help pet owners reunite with their pets.

    “Helping can be incredibly healing and empowering,” according to Ready.gov.

    Talking is also therapeutic for older children. If they have suffered a loss, let them know the trouble won’t last forever. Keep it casual and find another trusted adult if they won’t talk to you, said a Ready.gov guide, “Helping Children Cope.”

    With all ages, “bear in mind that talking with your child involves more listening than talking,” Moore and Rauch wrote.

    When taking care of children, don’t forget to take care of you, recommended the guide from Zero to Three. Get back to a routine as soon as possible. Share feelings with family and friends. Eat well, exercise and get rest. If necessary, get professional help. Take time to enjoy your children.

    You can find all sorts of resources online to help children prepare for and cope with disasters. Here are a few.

    The e-book, Community Crises and Disasters, by Cynthia Moore and Paula Rauch, is a guide to help families deal with disaster. It was written for the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. The authors are health care professionals who work in a family crisis center at Massachusetts General Hospital.

    Ready.gov has a section devoted to children with games and resources for parents, educators and children.

    PBS Kids made a companion site for its emergency preparedness specials. It has videos, activities, a coloring page, and guides for adults.


    - Melissa


    Disaster_Blog_Banner - Helping Children Cope

    Posted In: Planning Tagged With: Arthur the Aardvark, service, helping cihldren cope, children, disaster

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