to Children About Disasters
should not worry that talking about disasters will make children
fearful. On the contrary, children are usually more frightened
by what is whispered or not mentioned aloud than by matter-of-fact
discussion. Let children speak feely about what scares or
puzzles them—for example, “What will happen to
my puppy if we have to evacuate?” “If there’s
a flood and I’m at school, I won’t be able to
find you.” Try to answer questions and address concerns
with concrete, easy-to-follow information.
helping children learn how to prepare for, respond safely
during, and recover from a disaster, it is important to adapt
your discussions, instructions, and practice drills to their
skills and abilities. Be aware that young children can easily
confuse messages such as “drop, cover, and hold on”
(response during an earthquake) and “stop, drop, and
roll” (response if your clothes catch on fire).
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 of disasters
that children can relate to, such as loss of electricity,
water, and telephone service.
examples of several disasters that could happen in your community.
Help children recognize the warning signs for each. Discussing
disaster ahead of time reduces fear and anxiety and lets everyone
know how to respond.
prepared to answer children’s questions about scary
things that they have heard about or seen on television, such
as terrorist attacks. Give constructive information about
how they can be prepared to protect themselves.
children how and when to call for help. Teach them to call
9-1-1 or your local emergency telephone number. At home, post
emergency telephone numbers by all phones and explain when
to call each number. Include the work numbers and cell phone
numbers of household members. Even very young children can
be taught how and when to call for emergency assistance. If
a child cannot read, make an emergency phone number chart
with pictures or icons for 911, “daddy,” and “mommy”
that may help the child identify the correct number to call.
children that in a disaster there are many people who can
help them. Talk about ways that an emergency manager, American
Red Cross volunteer, police officer, firefighter, teacher,
neighbor, doctor, or utility worker might help after a disaster.
children to call your out-of-town contact in case they are
separated from the family and cannot reach family members
in an emergency. Tell them, “If no one answers, leave
a voice message if possible and then call the alternative
them memorize the telephone numbers, and write them down on
a card that they can keep with them.
your children every six months so they will remember where
to meet, what phone numbers to call, and safety rules.
that when people know what to do and practice in advance,
everyone is able to take care of themselves better in emergencies.
including all members of your household—regardless of
age—in disaster preparedness discussions, you will emphasize
each person’s importance as a member of the safety team.