What to Tell Children

  • Tell children that a disaster is something that happens that could hurt people, cause damage, or cut off utilities such as water, telephones, or electricity. Explain to them that nature sometimes provides "too much of a good thing" - fire, rain, wind, snow. Talk about typical effects that children can relate to, such as loss of electricity, water, and telephone service.
  • Give examples of several disasters that could happen in your community. Help children recognize the warning signs for the disasters that could happen in your community. Discussing disaster ahead of time reduces fear and anxiety and lets everyone know how to respond.
  • Teach children how and when to call for help. Check the telephone directory for local emergency telephone numbers. If you live in a 911 service area, teach children to call 911. At home, post emergency telephone numbers by all phones and explain when to call each number. Even very young children can be taught how and when to call for emergency assistance. If a child can't read, make an emergency telephone number chart with pictures that may help the child identify the correct number to call.
  • Explain that when people know what to do and practice in advance, everyone is better able to handle emergencies. That's why you need to create a Family Disaster Plan.
  • Have older children take a first aid and CPR course. These are critical skills, and learning can be a fun activity.
  • Tell children that in a disaster there are many people who can help them. Talk about ways that an emergency manager, Red Cross volunteer, police officer, firefighter, teacher, neighbor, doctor, or utility worker might help following a disaster.
  • Teach children to call your family contact in case they are separated from the family in an emergency. Help them memorize the telephone number, or write it down on a card that they can keep with them.