Teaching children how to stay safe in a hurricane is a valuable lesson that can save lives.
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Tips for Keeping Children Safe in a Hurricane
Hurricanes – and their aftermath – can be especially scary for kids. But hurricane preparedness exercises can help reduce the perceived fear surrounding emergencies by providing children with understanding and control. Save the Children’s emergency experts have compiled these tips to help protect your children from distress during and after disasters.
Preparing for a Hurricane
- Talk to your children about hurricanes. Explain to your child what could happen in the event of a hurricane, using simple, age-appropriate words. Outline an emergency plan for the whole family, with an evacuation plan and meeting location and emphasize that their safety is your utmost priority.
- Practice evacuation drills. Once you’ve created your evacuation plan and talked with your children about it, it’s time to practice. Be sure to run through different scenarios – at home, at school and at other places you visit often (like a grandparent’s house, or a second home). When planning your evacuation route, remember that bridges may be washed out, and low-lying areas may be flooded.
- Learn your child’s school or daycare disaster plans. If your child attends school, daycare or an after-school program, ask for the facility’s emergency plan in the event of a hurricane. Learn their procedures for evacuation, notifying parents and if there is an alternate pick up location.
- Stay informed. Use a NOAA Weather Radio or listen to a local station on a portable, battery-powered radio or television. Be ready to act if a Hurricane Warning is issued. Know the differences between a Hurricane Watch and Warning:
- A hurricane watch – there’s a threat of hurricane/tropical storm conditions within 48 hours.
- A hurricane warning – a hurricane/tropical storm is expected in 36 hours or less.
- A tropical storm/hurricane statement is issued every 2-3 hours by your local National Weather Service (NWS) office. It will summarize all of the watches and warnings, evacuation info and most immediate threats to the area.
- Pack a Go-Bag for each child. Every member of the family should have a Go-Bag packed and ready. Include basic hygiene items, a few changes of clothes, a notebook and games and any medications necessary. Does your child need a special blanket or stuffed animal? Children’s security can be tied to the simplest of items. Empower your child and ask them what they’d like to include.
- Create an In Case of Emergency (ICE) card for your child in case they are separated from you. Use this valuable template or create your own. It should have the child’s name and at least three emergency contacts, including one person who is outside the affected area.
During a Hurricane
- Evacuate if instructed to do so. If you are instructed to evacuate by local authorities – or if you feel unsafe – you should. Avoid flooded roads and watch for washed-out bridges. Local officials may close certain roads, especially near the coast, when effects of the hurricane reach the coast.
- Stay indoors, if not evacuated. If you aren’t advised to evacuate, or are unable to do so safely, stay indoors, away from windows, skylights and doors. Continue to monitor weather reports and don’t go outside until the storm has passed. Downed trees, live electrical wires and other hazards can crop up unexpectedly.
- Keep routines. Children experience comfort from rituals and routines, like a story before bedtime or special words spoken at mealtimes. If at all possible, keep these routines, even if you’re in temporary housing or eating fast food.
- Role model. Remember, children look to you and pick up on your moods and cues. Let your children know that it’s okay to be sad, but do your best to reassure them that they’re safe. Children learn coping skills from positive role models.
- Limit media. Even the mildest of storms can be sensationalized on news and weather channels. Children of all ages can be disturbed by intense images online and on TV, so monitor their media intake.
- Listen to them. Although the dangers of a hurricane are very real, your child’s fears may be out of proportion or unrealistic. Take the time to talk to them and hear their concerns.
After a Hurricane
- Watch your child for changes in behavior, sleeping patterns, or eating habits. Children may be afraid or anxious for a while after the hurricane. If you think they are extremely afraid, anxious or suffering post traumatically, seek professional help.
For more information, visit: www.savethechildren.org/GetReady
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