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Preparations for emergencies can be 
fun without being frightening.
Preparations for emergencies can be fun without being frightening.

Disaster Preparation

499 words


How To Prepare Children For Disasters
by Dianne Roth


In the past, preparing children for disaster meant duck-and-cover drills and watching newsreels on how to set up bomb shelters. Having been terrorized by these practices for the full 12 years of my education, I was left with an expectation of disaster.

Today, things are not much better. Mass media bombards our children with graphic images of war, volcanoes, terrorism, tsunamis, hurricanes, and the promise of earthquakes on a nightly basis. We are raising children who face disaster every day of their lives. This culture of fear does not insure preparedness, it breeds hopelessness and paralysis, and in children a preoccupation that leaves little room for trusting their future.

Somewhere, between terrorizing children and total denial, we must find middle ground. Children can be empowered by preparations without being defeated by the fear of their necessity.

I grew up with the belief that an A-bomb could be dropped on us any day. My family hoarded canned food but did little else to prepare for a disaster. We did not have fire drills or first aid kits.

With my own children I wanted them better prepared. They helped make the rope ladder they would need to get out of the second story bedroom and loved practicing using it. They planned and prepared dinners on a regular basis. Power outages were an excuse to set up the tent in the living room and navigate with flashlights. My oldest took it upon himself to make an emergency phone list to attach to the phone and kept it updated.

While camping in the woods, we learned how to start fires in the rain, cook a biscuit on a stick, find our way out of the woods, and purify water. We were convinced we could survive anything and had fun doing it.

In your own home, there are many ways you can make disaster preparations be a family affair without terrorizing your children. Have them pick out fancy Band-Aids for the first aid kit. Let them practice using the water filter and can opener. Cook up freeze dried dinners so they will know that survival food is easy and tastes good. Have drills to get out of the house safely. Help them climb down from the second story so they know they can.

With minimal details about why, sit down together and create a plan. Identify neighbors to go to for help. Pick a special tree to hug where you can all meet. Make sure everyone knows their whole name, address, and phone number. Practice calling grandma so that using the phone is not a mystery.

There are no guarantees in a disaster. When it really happens, all bets are off. However, statistics show that people who do survive, are the ones who believe they can and will stay alive. Keep in mind that preparedness is more than hoarded food and a kit. It is part fun and part a mind set for survival.


Dianne Roth is a teacher, mother, grandmother, and freelance writer. She lives in Oregon.



Last updated on October 8, 2012