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#218995 - 03/13/11 07:07 PM Re: kids and disasters [Re: Pete]
Lono Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/19/06
Posts: 1013
Loc: Pacific NW, USA
Originally Posted By: Pete
I am holding a drill tonight with my family on how to respond to a really violent earthquake. We will go over what to do, and where to go. This kind of response will be much harder - and scarier for the kids - if it happens in the middle of the night. So i agree with you 100% ... this drill must be practiced. I will have to set some kind of regular training with this drill, so the family doesn't forget it.

We will also need to revise our plan for meet-up points. If a big earthquake hits during the daytime, we are all in scattered locations and need to get together. We had a plan on how to do this, but since then we have moved houses and the kids have switched schools. So we need to revise that plan as well.

Thanks very much for the top about dealing with household fires. Our home does have a fire extuingisher, but I need to teach everyone how to use it. And we need to keep it more accessible than it is right now.

Yer welcome. Don't worry if your first meeting with your family on earthquake preparedness results in them asking more questions than you can answer right away - make a list, and address the issues they raise. Kids are smarter than we ever give them credit for, at times they think of things quite practically and in helpful ways. I remember my 6 year old #1 son raised an issue about keeping car keys accessible after an EQ - we kept spares in a kitchen drawer like 75% of people, what if that part of the house is under rubble? Anyone's preparedness plan can use some improvement.

EQ planning is a great lead-in to nuclear power plant safety issues, because the same meet up plans probably apply to both. Your school should have a plan and resources for caring for kids in their care - know how it will work, and how you will get your child safely home from school, and it will give you a measure of comfort in the event of an actual EQ. The school isn't as likely to evacuate after an EQ as they might in the even to of a nuclear incident, but they are still in custody of your child, and you'll want to make sure your kids understand that while they may be evacuated by the school, their parents are evacuating at the same time, and will be reunited with them just as soon as possible. Relating any kind of incident to something they know - a field trip etc - so that they aren't wondering or anxious about where they are going, when will they get home etc.

I still have fun doing refresher courses with expiring fire extinguishers every 2-3 years, this year we'll have a session with my extended family at a bbq for my daughter's birthday in July. On all these training events, strike while the iron is hot, get the knowledge into their thoughts while they are thinking of this stuff - I think it can reduce anxiety over the events they see on TV because they can see just how the adults in their lives might react in the event of a similar emergency closer to home. If you can maintain an air of confidence, chances are they will too.

#218996 - 03/13/11 07:10 PM Re: kids and disasters [Re: bacpacjac]
Eric Offline

Registered: 09/09/06
Posts: 323
Loc: Iowa
Too much information is context sensitive (at least with my daughter). On a good day with no threats of bad weather we can discuss thunderstorms and tornados and how to prepare and react with no problems. A little bit of rain and lightning and all she wants / needs is comfort with very little rationale discussion. So I educate when all is calm and provide support/diversions when things aren't so calm.

Everyone is different but I'm sure you can judge how much is too much for your son as circumstances change.

You are never beaten until you admit it. - - General George S. Patton

#219020 - 03/13/11 10:43 PM Re: kids and disasters [Re: bacpacjac]
Art_in_FL Offline

Registered: 09/01/07
Posts: 2432
In my travels, reading and talking to disaster responders, and my limited experience, I've come to understand that when having drills and training kids you do well to soft-pedal the danger, while not denying it entirely, and make it a game.

If the kids have fun during drills they look forward to them and are open to learning. If you push the danger they get frightened and upset. They cue off of the adults. If the adults express profound fear they tend to magnify it. People have to remember that if it frightens an adult kids, smaller and more vulnerable, have even more to fear. If the kids get frightened the drills become an unpleasant experience they will seek to avoid. There is also the danger that if and when the real thing comes you may have made it so scary that they freeze, hide under their beds, or do other perfectly understandable, but counterproductive actions.

Keep it light. Make it a game. Drill a little bit at a time. Remember that kids have limited attention spans, figure one or two minutes per year of age, and a limited ability to deal with stress. Talking about death and destruction is stressful, even for adults. Kids can be remarkably resilient and show surprising amounts of courage when the day comes but don't wear them out in practice.

You can motivate and scare adults into learning some of the basics and marginally complying, I have my doubts how effective fear really is long term as a motivator, even for adults, but kids tend to shut down.

#219057 - 03/14/11 04:28 AM Re: kids and disasters [Re: bacpacjac]
Susan Offline

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
Not having kids, I would tend to keep to the low-key end and just say something like, "If it gets bad, we'll grab our stuff and leave, then come back when it's safe".

While it's simplistic, it also avoids dwelling on the unlikely scenarios, but does tell them that there are options. It's nice that you don't live on an island, you can go as far as you need to.


#219068 - 03/14/11 12:02 PM Re: kids and disasters [Re: bacpacjac]
Lono Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/19/06
Posts: 1013
Loc: Pacific NW, USA
Lots of good observations here - especially keep it simple. Kids are supervised most of their waking hours by adults and older kids, there's not alot of reason to divert from that caretaker role with kids and disasters. They function best when in groups of kids with adults along (despite appearances). If you watch a fire or EQ drill, they move out the door, duck, dive etc just fine, and if their precious little attention spans work, they'll do the same in the event of an emergency. As parents, the Japan EQ is probably an opportunity to remind them to pay attention to the teacher during their safety drills, to listen carefully, and cooperate and follow directions, for everyone's safety. That's probably all they need. We drill to embed how we want people to react in a real emergency.

I encounter kids who have been through disasters about every other day lately, mostly house and apartment fires. Often they were woken up, pulled from bed, and hustled out of their homes to safety. Then in a matter of minutes, their rooms, clothing, toys, Nintendos and every bit of their life has been reduced to ashes, and their new reality is a hotel room and bag of belongings, if they are lucky to have that. That rapid change of circumstances requires some monitoring, especially of younger kids. The smoke and fire itself can be especially traumatic. The favorite animal or blanket, sometimes a family pet, may not be there anymore. Parents and maybe a mental health provider will have to spend some time talking them through their experiences, getting them back to okay. At the Red Cross, since I deal mainly with weekend and after hours calls, we treat it with a teddy bear, and hope that parents and other providers can pick up on these issues. Kids I see haven't fully processed everything from their own disaster yet, but I know they are amazingly resilient if supported and encouraged to deal with things.

#219293 - 03/15/11 07:23 PM Re: kids and disasters [Re: Pete]
capsu78 Offline

Registered: 01/09/07
Posts: 98
Loc: Chicagoland IL
Since it is coming up in a couple of weeks, maybe incorporating some of the techniques fron "The Great Shake Out" might show how school districts etc are preparing in the Mid West US along the New Madris fault:


It has some good K-12 resources that might provide a framework for age appropriate conversations with even a 7 year old.


Edited by capsu78 (03/15/11 07:26 PM)
"The last time I had a "good suprise", I was 5 and it was my birthday"

#219370 - 03/16/11 11:21 AM Re: kids and disasters [Re: bacpacjac]
bacpacjac Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 05/05/07
Posts: 3601
Loc: Ontario, Canada
great ideas, all. thanks!
Mom & Adventurer

You can find me on YouTube here:

#219393 - 03/16/11 02:46 PM Re: kids and disasters [Re: bacpacjac]
Mark_F Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 06/24/09
Posts: 714
Loc: Kentucky
DS, 9 y.o., refers to our BOB's as "camping stuff" ... I smile and go on since he is mostly correct. After all, what is a bug out but an impromptu camping trip (I know there's possibly more to it than that but that's enough for him atm).

The older ones need to know a bit more. They can do their own research ... and should be encouraged to consult more than one source.

Edited by Mark_Frantom (03/16/11 02:47 PM)
Uh ... does anyone have a match?

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