Disaster Preparedness – Are Your Kids Ready

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Are you prepared?

It’s 4:00 pm. and your latch-key kids and/or your teenagers are already home from school. You are still at work. It has been raining heavily all day with thunderstorms. Then it happens.

Suddenly the sky becomes so black, you’d swear it was the middle of the night. The power goes out because a tornado has just swept through your town.

Are your children prepared?

Did you ever prepare your latch key children? Did they know the safest place to seek shelter in the house? Do they know where the flashlights are kept? Do they have a list of emergency phone numbers to call? Do they know what to do if the telephone is out, the power is out, and the cell towers are down? Have you made arrangements with a neighbor to check on them in case of an emergency? Does the neighbor have your phone number at work? Could they survive for days on their own without assistance?


Perhaps you think you don’t really need to concern yourself with this. After all, you don’t live anywhere near ‘tornado alley’ where a tornado siren would warn you of an imminent tornado. Well, think again. Concern yourself! I lived at my parents’ home in Connecticut, when a tornado hit. I don’t think anyone in our town expected a tornado, but it hit and it hit with a fury. Not only that, but it came when the rest of my family was vacationing on Cape Cod. I could not get the time off from my job, so I had stayed behind. I was alone.

The neighbor from across the street had called me at work, and with panic in her voice, she told me that the tornado had gone right through my parents’ yard. There were so many trees down that she couldn’t see the house, so she didn’t know if it was damaged. Fortunately, she had my work phone number and was able to tell me that I wouldn’t be able to drive down our street as the fallen trees and downed power lines made it impossible.

At nineteen years of age, I bravely tried to make my way home from work. After negotiating many intersections with downed traffic signals, and passing numerous police barricades, I parked at the top of my street. Fortunately for me, I had a flashlight in the car. It was dark and I needed it to navigate through the debris and make it inside the house. The house was undamaged, but I couldn’t say the same for our cars that were left outside.

The power was out. I knew where we had some candles. Feeling my way in the dark, counting steps down the cellar stairs, I found them. Oh NO! The dog! He was in the back yard when the tornado came through. As I ran to the back door I wondered how I would find him….or would I find him at all or only a broken chain. I opened the back door and he ran into my arms! He was as happy to see me as I was to see him. He would now be my companion during the next 4 days without power.

Thank God the phones were still working. My parents called because they had heard about the tornado on the news. I told them about my journey home, the candles I had lit and that the dog was fine. Again, thank God the phones were working. My dad guided me via the telephone to where I would find the Coleman lanterns in the basement. Thankfully he could also talk me through how to change the mantles. Finally with a reasonable light source and our Alaskan Malamute, I felt secure.

The next three days would see me answering numerous phone calls from my family, friends who knew I was alone and neighbors who fed me baloney sandwiches out of their coolers. I had to travel out of town to buy more candles and mantels, but I made in through just fine.

Although my family was somewhat prepared, we should have been more prepared. I took this experience as a lesson to learn from.

Have you prepared yourself and your children what to do in a disaster? What if the disaster struck while they were away from home? Would they have the confidence and know-how to get through it?

Keep a written disaster survival plan

A disaster plan and instructions should be written in a binder and available to everyone at home.

During a disaster, children sometimes panic (as well as adults) or simply forget things due to the stressful nature of the situation. A well thought out written plan of action will ensure that important things are not missed.

For the disaster survival binder, consider including action items and instructions such as

  • procedure or check list of what to do and what to check for safety
  • turning off the gas to the house (how to do it – and don’t forget to practice and try it first)
  • shutting off  the main power breaker to the house (there are circumstances when you would want to shut off the main power – such as flooding)
  • list of contact names and phone numbers (if the parents can’t be reached, kids should be instructed to call a designated relative or friend)
  • list and location of survival items stored around the house (flashlight, batteries, potable water, extra food, etc…)

Do you have water stored in the home? Enough for at least several days for each family member? (If the regional power is out, you may lose water pressure in the home)

Do you have enough non-refrigerated food in the house?

Do you have family drills or occasional refreshers?

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