Preparing children for disasters
Updated: Mar 26
In the United States, children make up over 25% of the population. This 25% is the future of communities, faith-based groups, non-government, and government organizations in the United States. A disaster can happen at any time and at any given location. In some cases, these disasters can come without much warning, if any at all. When you are in the process of updating or creating a preparedness plan you should include
children in the process because they can encounter the same problems just as a regular adult and including them in the planning process can raise their confidence, responsibility in the family, and enhance their own resiliency during a disaster. Most children have a very creative mind and can think of different solutions for different problems. When creating or updating a preparedness plan be sure to include them in
the conversations so that their voice and issues can be heard. This step is very important as children have different needs than an adult. This will allow you to create a better plan that is adaptable to everyone's needs. When you are done updating or creating this new preparedness plan that includes your children be sure to practice the plan so that they fully understand how to act in the event of a real threat. While this step should be taken seriously, be sure to make it
fun for your children so that they are more likely to be interested in the plan and understand that this is a positive thing, not something they should be afraid of in the event of a real disaster. After you have practiced your preparedness plan with your children they should be able to memorize important contact information, understand where they need to shelter in the event of a disaster, and what to do after the disaster has occurred. If your child is in 8th grade or at least 12 years of age they can apply for
Teen CERT which is a 20-hour preparedness course typically run by either a fire department or Emergency Management Agency. Throughout Teen CERT, your child will learn how to respond effectively to a disaster in their community. In 2012, FEMA's Youth Preparedness Council was created to bring young leaders all across the United States together who have an interest in and support disaster preparedness. This is another great preparedness program that children can be a part of. The only requirement is that the child must be in either 8th, 9th, 10th, or 11th grade and be active in their community or
have lived through a disaster and believes in preparedness. If your child loves to read books then they may also be interested in FEMA's Youth Emergency Preparedness books. FEMA's Youth Emergency Preparedness books are filled with a bunch of information on how children can prepare for disasters and are available in several different reading levels ranging from first grade to twelfth grade. The best part is that the Youth Emergency Preparedness books are only 28 to 35 pages long and have fun activities that will help the child learn how to be prepared. Your child can even use the
Youth Emergency Preparedness books for research for projects. All of these books can be downloaded for free by clicking this link. Even with all of this knowledge on preparedness, a child can become easily frightened after a disaster has occurred and because of this, they need to understand how they can best cope with these fears and potential PTSD that have been brought on by the disaster. Your child may show signs of
fear, sadness, or behavioral problems after a disaster has occurred because they believe that the disaster may happen again, someone close to them may become injured or killed, or that during the disaster the child may become separated from the family. During this process, your child will show a range of emotions that should not go unnoticed. You can mitigate these fears and thoughts by reassuring them that everything
will be okay. Encourage your child to talk about their feelings and praise them when they are showing more responsible behaviors. When they are going to bed consider spending time with them if they are younger and explain to them why that certain disaster happened to the best of your ability. If the disaster is a disaster that regularly does not happen, reassure them that it's a very rare incident. In some cases, your children's
behavior after a disaster may not get better after reassuring them that they will be okay. If this does happen seek immediate help by acquiring a therapist or counselor that can help with the situation and give you the correct resources to help better the child's behavior.
About the writer: Michael Thornton graduated from Rose State College majoring in Emergency Management. Currently, he is the Director for Tillman County Emergency Management and is an Oklahoma Emergency Management Association member.