Preparing Your Children for Disasters

Guest post by Maggie Potter

No one wants to think about some kind of disaster or emergency impacting their family. Unfortunately, it happens all too often, and many times without warning. In the United States alone, house fires cause an average of 2,620 deaths each year. In 2019, there were 935 tornadoes in the United States. Everything from flooding and hurricanes to blizzards and power outages can be scary if your whole family isn’t prepared.

Teaching your children to prepare for life’s emergencies, whether that means knowing how to escape a fire, stock up on food for potential bad weather, or even to have money saved away for life’s unexpected curveballs, can help them to stay calm in the face of disaster.

When they know what to do, it’s less likely they’ll get overly stressed in an emergency situation. What you teach them now could end up saving their lives.

So how can you make sure your kids are fully prepared if they’re ever faced with a disaster?

Talk About the Risks of Your Environment

Depending on where you live, you might be more susceptible to certain environmental disasters. Chances are, you’re not going to experience a hurricane in Michigan, but you might have to prepare your family for a blizzard. If you live in Denver, a pile-up of snow might cause roof or structural damage to your home.

So, talk to your kids about potential environmental hazards depending on your location. The more they know about the potential risks in your area, the more prepared they can be. Make sure they know that they don’t have to be scared of their environment, just aware of any potential signs of danger.

Additionally, it’s important to talk to your children about the environment, in general. In today’s society, it’s impossible to ignore talks about climate change and other environmental threats the planet is currently facing. Climate change can pose health conditions like respiratory issues, eye problems thanks to exposure to UV rays, and could even start to impact the food supply.

Environmental factors like droughts and heatwaves are set to become more common in the future, especially in western states like Nevada. In fact, according to the University of Nevada, Reno, the state ranks last in the country in preparedness against these disasters.

Have a Plan in Place

Once you’ve talked with your children about potential disasters, you can put together plans for what to do in case one occurs.

Obviously, the best thing to do is to prevent catastrophes whenever possible. For example, you can reduce the risk of a fire destroying your home by:

  • Regularly checking smoke alarms.
  • Making sure heat sources are well-maintained.
  • Storing flammable products the right way.
  • Making sure cords are properly covered.
  • Using caution with candles and fireplaces.


There are some disasters, though, that are not preventable, even if you have precautions in place. Having a fire safety plan for your family is important. It should include everyone’s specific tasks in case there’s a fire, including safe routes to get out of the house. You can even show your children an orthomosaic map of your neighborhood and plan out an escape route so they can run to a neighbor’s house for help if needed.

In case of a weather disaster, make sure you have a shelter-in-place plan. You may not be able to leave your house, but everyone should know where to go within the home in order to stay safe and find other family members. In a tornado, for example, you might instruct your kids to run to the basement for shelter.

Communication is key during a disaster. That’s why having plans in place and even setting up practice runs can make a big difference. If a disaster ever does strike, your child will be more prepared to handle it instead of freezing on the spot because they’re scared or confused.

If your child has an illness, you should take extra steps to make sure they’re as prepared as possible for an emergency. Have a first aid kit or disaster preparedness kit where they can easily access it. Stock up on their medications, water, and non-perishable foods in case you’ll be stuck indoors for a while.

Provide Reassurance for Restoration

Offering your child comfort and reassurance is necessary when you’re preparing for a disaster. Talking about these potential dangers can be frightening for anyone. Make sure they know the more prepared everyone is, the less likely it will be for anyone to get hurt.

You can also reassure them with the promise of restoration. Disasters tend to bring communities together. From neighbors helping others clean up after a hurricane, to your Homeowners Association developing community plans for disaster management, you’ll always find people willing to lend a helping hand when a catastrophe hits.

Mr. Rogers liked to quote a saying his mother used to tell him, to “look for the helpers” in times of tragedy. It’s an idea that can help your child understand that although disastrous situations can be scary, they’re not permanent, and people are always willing to help when it’s needed most. In addition to preparing your children to help themselves, encourage them to seek out the help of others, and to actually be the helpers when others are in need.


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One Response to Preparing Your Children for Disasters

  1. Pingback: Community Planning: How Your Neighbors and Friends Can Plan for Disaster | The Preparedness Podcast

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