by Beth Buck
Recently my 8-year-old son came in from playing in a state of general upset. His friends had been teasing him, as elementary-schoolers are wont to do, about the possibility of everyone he knew getting squished by an earthquake. Specifically, his two friends exaggerated the likelihood of an earthquake in our town and the scope of possible damage and told him one would happen the next day.
It's a good thing I'm his mom. I've been immersing myself in this stuff for years! We had a casual conversation in our kitchen about how he already knows what to do during an earthquake, and all the contingencies. (“What if you're outside? In bed asleep? Here in the kitchen?”) His friends made a big deal out of the possibility of all the buildings falling down like in the 2011 earthquake in Haiti. I explained to my son about building codes, and how the people who had designed and built our house had followed them, whereas Haiti is notorious for considering building codes to be optional. When my son had heard all he felt like he wanted to hear (I could have gone on for at least another twenty minutes), he shrugged and returned to playing outside, no longer worried.
We've had many conversations like this at my house over the years, starting from when my children were very young. My family has yet to live through any kind of major emergency. My kids are still fairly young, but on the whole I think I've gotten pretty good at involving them in our plans. Here are some helpful tips.
1) Explain what you're doing in an age appropriate way.
Talking to your child about natural disasters and the need to prepare for them is a lot like talking to your child about death or the nitty-gritty details of human reproduction. It's sometimes difficult to know how much is not enough and what is too much. While it's not necessary to tell a three-year-old all the scary details of what any given emergency may entail, you should still give them an accurate picture. What this looks like will vary from child to child and from family to family. As an example, we live in an area where a toxic chemical spill is within the realm of possibility. We've explained and practiced our evacuation plan, have used the words “chemical spill” in our discussion, but determined that our four-year-old does not need to know what toxic chemicals do to the human body.
2) Make your kids help you maintain their own 72-hour kits.
Each child should be able to carry his or her own kit, and should know where to Replace what items and in which pocket. When the time comes to rotate items, have your child help you choose his or her own supplies. This will engender a feeling of ownership.
3) Practice, Practice
. Evacuation drills
make a good family activity. Some states have state-wide preparedness drills such as the Great Utah Shakeout
. Participation in these drills is a lot of fun in addition to being educational. In my home, we had races to see who could run to hide under the kitchen table the fastest.
4) Cook with your food storage.
Food from your long-term storage
isn't meant to be kept in your basement until it is no longer acceptable as food. I make fresh tortillas from the dent corn in our food storage and my kids think it's the best ever.
5) Go camping.
This lets kids get away from modern amenities and learn how to function without them. Camping is also a great way to practice using the gadgets in your 72-hour kits (see #3).
6) Learn together.
Number 1-5 assumes that you, the parent, already have a lot of emergency preparedness training and knowledge under your belt, but if you are part of the majority of Americans, this may not be the case. That is OK – you have to start somewhere, after all, right? If you are not already up-to-date with your 72-hour kits, do so. Familiarize yourself with what to do during any given emergency. Create an evacuation plan. Get all the information you need, and then pass that knowledge on to your kids. If you know what to do, they will know what to do.
Beth Buck has been involved with emergency preparedness since her very earliest years. She enjoys hiking, martial arts, reading, and writing about food storage. Beth lives in the Intermountain West with her family.