Parents may hope their kids will never encounter an emergency, but kids need to be prepared to stay safe during fires, natural disasters or other events that put them in harm’s way.
Teaching your kids what to do in an emergency may save lives, including their own. But how can you help them understand without scaring them?
These steps, outlined by BlowHard Fans, will prepare kids of all ages to respond appropriately should they find themselves in an emergency.
1. Memorize personal information
If you become separated from your child during a community event, a natural disaster or even just during a trip to the grocery store, would they know how to contact you? Help kids memorize their full name, address and a parent’s phone number. With a bit of help, kids as young as 4 or 5 years old can remember this vital contact info.
Consider omitting the phone number’s area code and leaving off the zip code to make memorization a little easier. If the street address is too complex for a little one to recall, use a more qualitative description. Say, for example, “I live on Maple Street, near the playground at Prairie Ridge Park.”
2. Trust their instincts
Teach kids that it’s OK to trust their gut feeling. If something doesn’t feel right, they should say “no,” remove themselves from the situation and ask a trusted adult for help. Identify who kids can ask for help: police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, neighbors, clergy and teachers, for example.
3. Make an evacuation plan
A strategic plan for emergencies keeps everyone in your family safe. Help children understand when to evacuate their home, such as during a fire. Stress the importance of leaving cherished material possessions behind and never going back inside a dangerous structure to retrieve people, pets or belongings. Establish a family meeting place where everyone will meet if you can’t get out of the house together. Make sure your child knows that it’s OK to leave the house without you.
Depending on where you live, your plan may need to account for different types of weather-related emergencies. For instance, if you live in an area prone to wildfires, build an appropriate response into your plan. If you live where tornadoes frequently occur, help your child understand what to do if they hear tornado sirens.
4. Practice, practice, practice
Schools practice fire drills several times a year so students and teachers know how to respond should a real fire occur. You should do the same at home.
Walk through the steps that would happen if your child hears a smoke detector. Discuss the importance of crawling below the smoke until you reach the outdoors. Reiterate that your child should never open a door if the knob or door itself is hot. Instead, look for another escape route, such as a window. Identify all the possible escape routes from your child’s bedroom. During the practice drill, be sure to meet at your designated place.
Reviewing the plan during a stress-free time will help your child be better prepared to respond should the real thing occur.
5. Learn to call 911
Every child should know when and how to call 911. Explain how the numbers work on the phone’s keypad. Since there’s not an 11 on the keypad, don’t say “nine eleven.” Say 9-1-1. This makes it clear that they must press “one” twice.
When teaching your child how to dial 911, help them understand how the number should be utilized:
- Only for true emergencies, such as a traumatic injury, serious illness, fire, intruder or another event that requires an emergency response
- Not for animal-related issues (unless someone has been bitten and needs medical attention)
- Never for fun or as a prank
For younger kids, it may help to explain the difference between a problem and an emergency.
You may need help when a problem occurs but it doesn’t require the police or fire department to come to your house. For example, if the electricity goes out, there’s no need to call 911. However, if the child sees an intruder trying to pry a window open, they should call 911 and alert the police immediately.
6. Learn basic first aid
Have your child help create a first aid kit with bandages, gloves, gauze, alcohol pads, a tourniquet, medical tape, a CPR pocket mask and other essentials. If your child is old enough, teach them how to apply pressure to stop bleeding or apply a tourniquet. Make sure younger kids know where the first aid kit is kept at your house. That way, they can retrieve it if needed.
No parent wants to imagine their child involved in an emergency situation, but you’ll rest easier if your child is prepared to respond. These strategies will ensure your child knows what to do if the worst occurs at your home or in the community. See the accompanying resource for helpful information.