Disaster Preparedness Tips for Parents

Joplin tornado victim in a shelter
When tornadoes struck Joplin in 2011, Joi, an 8-year-old elementary schooler survived by hiding in her bathtub. Help us make sure communities are better prepared to protect children in the U.S. when disasters strike. Photo credit: Bruce Stidham

Having witnessed the terrible impact disasters can have on children, Save the Children wants every parent to know just what to do to keep their children safe – both physically and psychologically.

"Save the Children knows from experience that disasters can cause fear, anxiety and stress in children, which can last long after the initial impact," says Save the Children’s Domestic Emergencies Advisor Jeanne-Aimée De Marrais. "That's why we have to do everything we can to minimize the emotional effect of such traumatizing events on children and provide the support they need."

Based upon Save the Children's years of domestic and international experience of coming to the aid of children in emergencies, the tips below and to the right can be used as a guide by parents and other adults who want to help loved ones cope in the face of disaster.

In addition to the basic emergency kits that include survival items such as water, a flashlight and a battery-powered radio, families need to put kid-friendly supplies and plans on the list.

Once your family is out of harm's way, children can still be frightened or confused. Here are some tips to help them feel safe again:

Limit TV time: Intense media coverage of disasters can frighten young children and disturb teenagers as well.
Listen: Find out your child's concerns about the situation.
Comfort: Let them know their safety is your top priority.
Be Aware: Changes in sleeping, eating and other behaviors can indicate distress. Seek professional support and counseling if they persist.
Make time: Help kids understand they're safe and secure by talking, playing and other family activities.
Keep calm and carry on: Your child will learn how to deal with these events from you. 
Care: Make a point of showing sensitivity toward other families impacted by the disaster. 
Routine: Help your children return to normal activities including school, sports and play groups. 
Volunteer: Helping others can give your child a sense of control, security and empathy.

Save the Children Disaster Checklist for Families 

  • Comfort Items: stuffed animal, doll, pacifier or blanket
  • Personal Hygiene: baby wipes, feminine products, diapers, nursing pads
  • Children's Activities: books, puzzles, games
  • Infant Nutrition: nursing supplies, formula, pre-packaged baby food
  • Medical needs: infant/child fever reducer, rash ointment
  • Family meet-up: Pick a safe spot to meet if separated such as a local school or library
  • Out-of-towner: A family contact who would not be affected by a local disaster
  • ICE: Cell phones should have "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) programmed into their contacts
  • Text: Text messages can often get through, even when a phone call can't
  • Contact school or day care: Ensure they know what your child is supposed to do in case of an emergency

You can help Save the Children USA be prepared, and contribute to our efforts to support your American neighbors in need during their darkest hours. When disaster strikes, chaos reigns and it is not always immediately clear what help will be needed or how much. But we do know, no matter what, disasters will continue to strike American communities – and we will be ready to help. We need your support to help us prepare. By contributing to the U.S. Emergencies Fund, you enable us to serve children through disaster planning, preparedness, response and recovery work.

Help Save the Children USA be prepared for the next disaster

Since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, Save the Children had emerged as the national leader for ensuring children’s wellbeing in domestic emergencies by working to reduce disasters’ impact on children through preparedness, response, recovery and advocacy work. More than 200,000 children and caregivers have been helped since 2005


Last Updated October 2013

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